Thursday, June 21, 2007
Hand sanitizer risks
The first time I read about the dangers of hand sanitizer, I thought it was a joke. There was a widely circulating story about a child eating or drinking hand sanitizer and becoming deathly ill. C'mon, you're thinking. That is an Internet hoax.

Well, not so fast. While there hasn't been a single documented case of a child dying from it, there have been some pretty frightening stories. Parents, like myself, should at a minimum be aware of what is in hand sanitizer. Flip that bottle over and you are likely to see that it's 62 percent ethyl alcohol. That is also known as ethanol. It is also the same stuff in wine, beer and Jack Daniels. That's right: A little 2-ounce bottle = 4 shots of vodka.

The New England Journal of Medicine first warned of cases of people ingesting hand sanitizer a few months ago. Now according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the country's 61 poison centers are getting more calls about it. There were nearly 12,000 cases last year, up from 2005. Already, this year, there have been about 6,600 cases.

As a father of a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old, I know just about everything goes from hand to mouth. And, hand sanitizer can smell especially appetizing! If you look at a 1-year old child weighing about 22 pounds, a squirt of sanitizer is like your child drinking a sip of a mixed drink. So, is it time we start locking up the hand sanitizer and treating it as a poison? How do you keep your kids safe from these seemingly harmless substances?

If you have any questions, you can call the American Association of Poison Control Centers Poison Help Line 1-800-222-1222. You'll be connected to your local poison control center.
Hey Dr. Gupta,
When my children were young, I was a fanatic trying to childproof my home. I found the childproof cabinet locks were very useful. I remember one time I gave a dose of prescription cough syrup to my son, then ran to my baby daughter's room because she was crying. When I came back, my sone had downed the whole bottle! My pediatrician told me to give him syrup of Ipecac which I kept handy for just such an occasion.
We must be vigilent with our children. Mistakes, accidents, and tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye.
Dear Dr. Gupta

Couldn't people just consider themselves cleaner and sterilized, if they just watched your show? I'm sure the education that you give your viewers get would kill all bacteria on the body, and than people would never have to wash and never be sick again.

(kidding)

From someone who watches the Paging Dr. Gupta show. I know I'm sterilized.

Ann Stewart Nashville, TN.
Believe it or not it is true I was doing my own research since before Dr. Sanjay posted that real blog. Thank you Dr. Sanjay
As a microbiologist, I am concerned about people's perceptions of what these sanitizers can and cannot do. These alcohol-based sanitizers will kill most bacteria and some viruses (those with membranes), but they do not kill bacterial or fungal spores or viruses that lack membranes (which include many cold viruses and viruses that cause gastrointestinal diseases, especially in children). Sanitizers don't remove dirt or other contaminants, and so I find it very strange that my local gas stations have sanitizer dispensers next to the pumps - santizier won't remove the residual gasoline from one's hands, and I'm far more worried about the long-term effects of gasoline than about the few microbes that might have been on the pump handle. Also, the high amount of alcohol can dry out the skin to the point where fine cracks in the skin are actually more prone to infection than the skin was prior to sanitizer use. In the end, hand sanitizers are a poor substitute for soap and water.
I don't use hand sanitizers, but not because of the alcohol content. I tend to think that we live in an over sanitized world, with anti-bacterial soaps, and antibiotics at the first sneeze. Now I don't use the hand sanitizers at all, and I only wash my hands after using the restroom, before handling food, and if I actually need to because they're dirty or I sneezed or coughed on them. And I haven't taken an antibiotic in several years. Maybe it's just better to let your body learn to fight off some things and save the big guns for the big battles.
I always thought it was weird that a person can just slather gel on their hands and it meant that they were clean. I stick with good 'ol soap and water and if that's not available - wipes - I never got sick growing up using that!
"Flip that bottle over and you are likely to see that it's 62 percent ethyl alcohol. That is also known as ethanol. It is also the same stuff in wine, beer and Jack Daniels."

Ethyl Alcohol is not the same alcohol found in wine, beer, etc. Ethyl alcohol is lethal to consume.
Some hand sanitizers use isopropyl alcohol, which is poisonous even to adults. There have been stories of people (prisoners in jail, for instance) ingesting it and becoming extremely ill.
While hardly epidemic in proportion, you're spot on growing # of reported cases--which is why a rapidly growing number of retailers are now figuring out the need to embrace ALCOHOL-FREE hand sanitizers..Stew Leonard's of Connecticut, a $300 million/yr grocery just introduced Soapopular brand, and became the first US retailer to promote the Canadian-imported product..The US licensee is Mata Global Solutions--and has apparently gotten the attention of several big box retailers..Thank goodness!
"Ethyl Alcohol is not the same alcohol found in wine, beer, etc. Ethyl alcohol is lethal to consume."

Umm no this isn't true...ethyl alcohol is ethanol and that is the substance that we refer to as alcohol in beer, wine, and spirits.
To the previous comment, ethyl alcohol IS the alcohol found in wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages. Ethanol = ethyl alcohol. Taken Organic Chemistry lately?
To correct the first commenter, ethyl alcohol is the same kind of alcohol found in wine, beer, and Jack Daniels. This person probably was thinking of methyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol (i.e. the rubbing alcohol often used in medical settings).

To give the person some credit, pure ethyl alcohol is very dangerous (think grain alcohol) and either way your kids shouldn't be drinking hand sanitizer regardless of what kind of alcohol is in it.
OK, I would have a hissy fit if my daughter said this to me, but I'm saying it to the world. DUUUHH! Common sense would or should have dictated that one would keep sanitizer out of the reach of small children anyway. We don't leave shampoo, dish washing liquid, vitamins and other seemingly innocent household products out or down with in the reach of our little ones. Why should hand sanitizer be any different?
Annother thought is this; how many of those cases were children, and how many were alcoholics drinking the sanitizer because the maraschino cherries and cough syrup didn't have enough of a kick?
There is absolutely no reason to use hand sanitizer in a home that has running water installed. In a normal household soap and water is superior to hand sanitizer and doesn't have any of it's dangerous side effects.

g u r u
After reading Gupta's book, I made the decision to stop all dairy, all sugar, and all refined floor. I did not diet. I ate whenever I wanted to. I rarely exercise right now due to a busy schedule and have a sedentary job. I lost 20 pounds in a month! My cholesteral went down to normal levels, and my triglicerides also went down. I am still trying to lower my LDL. I am never hungry, I mean REALLY hungry. The food I eat burns smoothly throughout the day. I eat fish, poultry, fruits, vegetable, nuts and oatmeal, and a small glass of wine once in while. I eat avacados and tomatoes like apples with some sea salt and am very satisfied. It sounds wierd but yesterday at a conference I watched my fellow educators eat cakes and pies and I wasn't even interested. I had a mocha, soy latte for dessert instead. That was my indulgence. I am trying to find ways to make fun foods and desserts using cocoa, soy, natural sweeteners such as fruits, and honey. This was an easy switch to make.
Ethanol is the same as Ethyl Alcohol, also known as drinking alcohol and it is the same thing found in beer and wine. I thought use of sanitizers would eliminate all the bacteria, I guess I was wrong. It would be better just to stick with anti-bacterial soap and water. All the new products that are coming out to protect us from bacteria are actually making us more prone to bacteria.
Yes, Ethanol is the same as Ethyl Alcohol. Ethanol made from corn is ok but you, of course, can get drunk on it. ;) However, the Ethyl Alcohol used in the hand gel is what the TTB called denatured alcohol and is unsuitable for drinking. And, it can be toxic for internal intake.
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