RICHMOND, Va. -- Poison centers across the country have seen a 400 percent increase in calls related to kids under age 12 swallowing hand sanitizer since 2010, according to a recent analysis by the Georgia Poison Center.
“Our calls parallel the nationwide experience for all poison centers,” Dr. Rutherfoord Rose with the Virginia Poison Center, said.
Dr. Rose said the vast majority of calls here involve young children who accidentally swallow hand sanitizer.
“It’s attractive colors, it’s attractive containers, and for many years they had no type of child resistant packaging so really easy access for children,” Rose said.
Still, he said about 10 percent of cases involve older kids who purposely drink it to feel intoxicated.
“It’s 1.5 times stronger, 150 percent stronger than the alcohol you would buy at the ABC store,” Rose said.
Many hand sanitizers contain an ethyl alcohol content over 60 percent.
Pediatrician Doctor Jeff Bennett at KidMed said just a small amount of the gel or liquid can cause a young child to get drunk.
“The kids can put it in their mouth and swish it around and spit it out and they can still get a significant alcohol intoxication,” Bennett said.
A spokesperson for Henrico County School said they only have hand sanitizer in places where there is adult supervision.
In Chesterfield County, a spokesperson said kids can bring it to school, but it must be fragrance-free.