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Kids administered sanitizer instead of polio drops: What will happen if you ingest hand sanitizer?

Alcohol poisoning in children can cause sleepiness, low blood sugar, seizures and coma, and can be fatal too.

While hand hygiene is important to keep your children safe from germs, including COVID-19, parents should keep hand sanitizers out of children's reach. Swallowing even a small amount of hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning in children.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Published : February 2, 2021 2:00 PM IST

In a shocking incident, at least 12 kids were administered hand sanitizer instead of the oral polio vaccine drops at a Primary Health Centre in Maharashtra's Yavatmal district. The incident took place on Sunday during the polio vaccination programme carried out at Ghatanji's Kapsi-Kopari village in the district.

Officials told IANS that the kids who were given sanitizers instead of the polio drops complained of nausea, cramps and vomiting. All them, aged between 1-5 years, were rushed to the Vasantrao Naik Government Medical College & Hospital (VNGMCH) for treatment. They are now stable and may be discharged on Tuesday evening, VNGMCH Dean Dr Milind Kamble told the news agency.

Following a preliminary investigation into the incident, the district health authorities late on Monday suspended three nurses on duty at the time.

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According to Zilla Parishad CEO Shrikrishna Panchal, the nurses apparently mistook bottles of sanitisers that were placed near the polio vaccine drops and administered them to the kids.

Another three health workers are being investigated for the negligence.

Get to know the dangers of ingesting hand sanitizer

VNGMCH Dean Dr Milind Kamble said that while ingestion of hand-sanitizing liquids is not fatal, it may cause health complications as it contains around 70 percent alcohol, especially among young children.

In August last year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also issued a warning about the dangers of swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizer after four people died and nearly a dozen became ill due to methanol poisoning. Some of the patients who were treated for methanol toxicity sustained visual impairments, according to the C.D.C.

Methanol is commonly found in fuel products, antifreeze, industrial solvents, but it is also used in some preparations of hand sanitizer. The US health officials have warned that this type of alcohol is harmful and should not be used in hand sanitizer.

The CDC officials cautioned that swallowing hand sanitizer containing either methanol or ethanol could cause a headache, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of coordination and decreased level of consciousness. In severe cases, methanol poisoning can lead to metabolic acidosis, seizures, blindness and even death, they added.

Keep your kids safe from alcohol poisoning

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, hand sanitizers and face masks have become the must-have travel items now. Hand hygiene is considered a necessary measure for COVID-19 prevention with health authorities around the world recommended frequent, thorough handwashing with soap and water during the pandemic.

When soap and water are not available, the CDC recommends using ethyl alcohol- or isopropyl alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Health experts recommend using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to kill the novel coronavirus. I may be noted here that drinking alcohol typically contains 5% to 40% alcohol.

Therefore, in its advisory, the CDC warns against ingestion of alcohol-based hand sanitizer products.

It is reported that some adolescents and adults with history of alcohol use disorder are drinking alcohol-based products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute. Hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning in children if they unintentionally swallow these products.

So, while hand hygiene is important to keep your children safe from germs, including COVID-19, parents should keep hand sanitizers out of children's reach. Children ages 5 and younger should be supervised by parents and caregivers while using a hand sanitizer.

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