Study: More kids getting drunk on hand sanitizer

Posted at 2:44 PM, Sep 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-14 14:44:28-04

ATLANTA, Ga. – Nhaijah Russell, 6, was rushed to an emergency room when she started slurring her words and was no longer able to walk.

She had just consumed about three to four squirts of a strawberry-flavored hand sanitizer at her school – and she was drunk, CNN reports.

So drunk, in fact, doctors said her blood-alcohol level was .179, twice what's considered legally drunk in an adult.

Since 2010, poison control center hotlines across the United States have seen a nearly 400 percent increase in calls related to children younger than 12 ingesting hand sanitizer, according to new analysis by the Georgia Poison Center first reported by CNN.

"Kids are getting into these products more frequently, and unfortunately, there's a percentage of them going to the emergency room," Dr. Gaylord Lopez, the center's director, told CNN.

The amount of alcohol in hand sanitizer ranges from 45 percent to 95 percent, Lopez said. Ingesting even small amounts – as little as two or three squirts in some cases – can cause alcohol poisoning.

By comparison, wine and beer contain about 12 percent and 5 percent alcohol, Lopez said.

After drinking the few squirts of sanitizer, doctors had to watch Nhaijah overnight at a nearby children's hospital for signs of brain trauma. The alcohol had caused her to fall and hit her head, CNN reports.  

"That was very scary," Nhaijah's mother, Ortoria Scott, told CNN. "It could have been very lethal for my child."

Alcohol poisoning can cause confusion, vomiting and drowsiness. In severe cases, a child can stop breathing.

Lopez said 3,266 hand sanitizer cases related to young children were reported to poison control centers in 2010. In 2014, the number increased to 16,117 cases.

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