Dozens of Hawaii toddlers accidentally ingesting hand sanitizer

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Little hands, big reach. Even simple household products can be dangerous for curious toddlers.

In the past year, Hawaii's Poison Control Center has tracked dozens of cases of young children accidentally ingesting hand sanitizer. The good news is: the health department says there have been no deaths or serious injuries to toddlers, but there are risks.

Genelle Partain and her two year old daughter, U'i, splashed on the hand sanitizer just before coming here. "Yeah, we washed our hands before we came to the park, and when we're out and about or at soccer or activities, we use it after," says Partain.

But they keep the product out of reach of children. "We won't let her hold it or anything," adds Partain.

Since the beginning of 2011, Hawaii poison control has received about 80 reports of children, under age five, accidentally swallowing alcohol-based sanitizers.

Hawaii state toxicologist Barbara Brooks says, "If a toddler accidentally licked their hands with hand sanitizers, it's unlikely that there'd be any toxicity, so it's okay to use. But as far as kids accidentally getting into the hand sanitizers, parents have to be aware that they do contain a lot of alcohol."

Most are more than 60% alcohol. A one-ounce bottle equals one-and-a-half shots of vodka. Debbie Castillio never uses the product on her grandson, Jeremiah. "Because he always has his hands in his mouth, no matter where, I don't usually use a sanitizer - only because of the alcohol that's in it," she explains.

Amy McDonald uses it sparingly, but if anything should ever happen to her toddler, Arianna, she knows exactly what the health department recommends. "I would call the poison control, and probably, depending on how much they took, take them to the ER," says McDonald.

Poison control adds that, if a toddler appears intoxicated, go to your healthcare provider immediately - and like any potentially dangerous product, prevention is key. "They should lock them up and keep them where a child can't get into them," advises Brooks.

Health officials remind folks that, when used correctly, hand sanitizers are very effective in killing germs and preventing illness.

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