An Allegheny County mother is warning parents about hand sanitizer exposure after her young daughter consumed several ounces of the liquid and experienced alcohol poisoning.
The mother told CBS Pittsburgh her 5-year-old daughter had the hand sanitizer provided her the school as part of classroom supplies and collapsed by lunchtime.
“The principal called and said to get to the school immediately,” the girl’s mom said. “She was walking a little wobbly down the hall. By the time they got to the classroom, to the lunchroom, she fell and couldn’t sit up straight.”
The mother of three chose not to be identified, but wanted to share her youngest child's story as a warning to others after the little girl needed to be rushed to a Children's Hospital from school.
“She was completely out of it. I tried to wake her and she opened her eyes briefly and she looked at me, but it was almost as if she looked straight through me. And she started to cry and then she laid back down,” the mother said. “I was very scared. I had no idea. The medic didn’t have any idea either.”
CBS Pittsburgh reports the child's blood-alcohol level was .23 after the incident and the mother said her daughter "consumed half of the bottle," or "6 ounces of 70% alcohol."
Superintendent Barry Balaski issued the following statement to CBS Pittsburgh in response to the incident:
“The health and wellness of our students is a priority. The district provides hand-sanitizing stations that are available in each of our schools. In addition, students are permitted to have hand sanitizer in their desk or backpack. However, students are not required to keep it in their desk or backpack, particularly if a parent/guardian does not want them to have it.”
Dr. Michael Lynch, head of the Pittsburgh Poision Center, said he's noticed a significant uptick in children ingesting hand sanitizer during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“In Pennsylvania, in the last 18 months, more or less since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen a 56% increase in hand sanitizer exposure cases compared to the 18 months prior to that,” Lynch said via CBS Pittsburgh.
Lynch said the total amount of cases was about 2,300, with most pertaining to children under the age of 5 and about 6% needing to go to the hospital.
“Hand sanitizers will typically have 70% or so ethanol, which means they’re about 140 proof,” Dr. Lynch said. “Even a small amount can be enough to get intoxicated.”
The little girl has since made a successful recovery, but her mother is worried that there may be harmful long-term effects after the incident.