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Alarming Trend: Kids Ages 6 to 12 Intentionally Drinking Hand Sanitizer

Parents, this is one trend you need to be "in the know" about given its potentially dangerous side-effects.

hand sanitizer Shaynepplstockphoto/Shutterstock
As a mom of an 8- and 6-year-old, I was shocked to learn that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an increasing number of kids ages 6-12 are purposely drinking gel hand sanitizer for the alcohol.

"Older children were more likely to report intentional ingestion and to have adverse health effects and worse outcomes than were younger children [ages 5 and younger], suggesting that older children might be deliberately misusing or abusing alcohol hand sanitizers," lead researcher Dr. Cynthia Santos, of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, said in a statement.

This problem is even more concerning given the fact that these hand-cleaning products are pretty much everywhere, from schools, to offices, clipped onto kids' backpacks, and in every diaper bag and purse of seemingly every mom in America.

According to researchers, hand sanitizers often contain 60 percent to 90 percent ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, and upon ingestion, kids can suffer serious health consequences, including vomiting, eye irritation, difficulty breathing, excessive acid buildup in tissues, and even seizures and coma.

After looking at data from the U.S. National Poison Data System from 2011-2014, researchers noted 70,669 hand sanitizer exposures in kids at age 12 or younger. More than 90 percent involved products containing alcohol. Many of the exposures could have been accidental; consider that 91 percent involved kids under age 5, who likely didn't know any better. But about 6,200 incidents involved kids aged 6 to 12, which means they could have been intentional.

Shockingly, researchers referenced earlier data collected from 2000-2011 that showed 35 percent of hand sanitizer ingestions by adolescents happened at school.

So what can concerned parents (like me!) do?

  • Encourage hand-washing with soap and water instead of using hand sanitizer, whenever possible.
  • Reconsider the decision to send your child to school with his or her own bottle of thehand-cleaning product.
  • Talk to your kids about the dangers of ingesting hand sanitizer, which they may think is cool if theydon't understand the serious risks.
  • Have a discussion with your child's teacher if you are concerned intentional ingestion may be a problem at school.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.