Children Are Consuming Hand Sanitizer. Here’s How to Keep Them Safe.

Children Are Consuming Hand Sanitizer. Here’s How to Keep Them Safe.

During the pandemic, there was a dramatic increase in exposures to hand sanitizer reported among kids under 6, U.S. poison center data shows.


By Christina Caron

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer became a must-have item during the pandemic. But as sales jumped and families stocked up, poison control centers started getting more calls about little children who had accidentally ingested it.

Even now, about a year after the frenzy to stock up on sanitizer first began, hand sanitizer remains within easy reach in many homes, and calls to the nation’s poison control centers are on pace to continue trending higher than before the pandemic.

Last year, there were more than 20,000 exposures to hand sanitizer among children under 6, an increase of 40 percent from 2019, according to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers that was obtained by The New York Times.

Most of these exposures involved children 2 and younger who had ingested the sanitizer. In many cases, no symptoms were recorded, which means that the child might have only taken a brief taste or lick, something that will not typically cause significant health effects, said Dr. Justin Arnold, the medical director of Florida Poison Information Center Tampa. But in other instances, children experienced vomiting, cough and mouth irritation.

Even though most cases are mild, by storing sanitizer properly and supervising young kids while they use it, parents can avoid the stress of having to call poison control or taking an unnecessary trip to the emergency room.

The uptick in exposures has continued in recent months. In January, for example, there were nearly 34 percent more hand sanitizer exposures reported among children under 6 than there were the year before.

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