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Kindergartener reportedly ingests hand sanitizer at school, hospitalized for .23 BAC

Health experts are warning schools and parents after a Pennsylvania kindergartner reportedly ingested hand sanitizer on the second day of class, and was hospitalized with a startling .23 blood alcohol level.

The incident allegedly occurred at J.H. Brooks Elementary School in Moon Township, according to CBS KDKA in Pittsburgh.

Barry Balaski, superintendent of Moon Area School District, told Fox News in an email that the health and wellness of students is a priority.

“As part of our district’s Health and Safety Plan and in accordance with the CDC’s guidance for schools, the district provides hand sanitizing stations that are available in each of our schools,” Balaski said. “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.”

Balaski went on, “Education is an important part of our Health and Safety initiatives. Our teachers often speak to students about the components of our Health and Safety Plan. In addition, we hope parents will also continue to educate their children at home.”

A spokesperson for the Moon Area School District told Fox News they could not confirm whether or not the incident took place.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) told Fox News it also does not have information on this case, though Dr. Michael Lynch, Pittsburgh Poison Center medical director, said the past 18 months there’s been an uptick of more than 56% in hand sanitizer exposure cases in Pennsylvania.

Most of these children were in kindergarten or younger. Roughly 6% of those cases resulted in hospital visits, according to Lynch and UPMC.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) has tracked 15,867 hand sanitizer exposure cases in kids 12 and under as of August 31, 2021. 
(iStock)

The mother, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke with KDKA.

“The principal called and said to get to the school immediately,” the girl’s mom told the station. “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 child was apparently rushed to Children’s Hospital where hours later, she “came to,” though her mother said she was unsure of what happened until the school called again, according to KDKA.

“This class, each student has their own sanitizer pump bottle at their desk with their name on it for their personal use,” the mother added. “My daughter had consumed half of that bottle. She consumed 6 ounces of 70% alcohol.”

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) has tracked 15,867 hand sanitizer exposure cases in kids 12 and under as of August 31, 2021. 

That number dropped from 2020 when 21,074 hand sanitizer exposure cases were reported to 55 poison control centers – a rate nearly 70% higher compared to the same time period during 2019, pre-pandemic.

Most hand sanitizer products contain over 60% ethyl alcohol, which is a stronger alcohol concentration than most hard liquors, the AAPCC wrote on its website, noting that even a small amount of alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning in kids. 

“Alcohol poisoning can cause confusion, vomiting and drowsiness, and in severe cases, respiratory arrest and death,” the AAPCC wrote, adding: “Many hand sanitizers come in brightly colored bottles, can be laced with glitter, and smell like food or candy. This type of packaging makes them very tempting to young children.”

“While a child who licks a tiny amount of hand sanitizer off of his or her hands is unlikely to become sick, a child ingesting any more than a taste of hand sanitizer could be at risk for alcohol poisoning.”

Jennifer Q. Tran, director of the Children's National Safety Center and physician’s assistant at Children’s National Hospital in Washington D.C., suggested teachers keep designated hand sanitizing stations at their desks so it’s in a supervised, safe and accessible place.

Jennifer Q. Tran, director of the Children’s National Safety Center and physician’s assistant at Children’s National Hospital in Washington D.C., suggested teachers keep designated hand sanitizing stations at their desks so it’s in a supervised, safe and accessible place.
(iStock)

In a Sept. 10 Facebook Live, a panel of medical experts met with nonprofit child safety organization Safe Kids Worldwide, to share back-to-school safety tips. 

As for kids carrying their own hand sanitizers, the experts advised precautions like having a conversation with your child about the dangers behind them. 

“You also want to be very cautious of them recognizing that they may be around younger kids who don’t necessarily know that these things aren’t toys…that these things aren’t candy and not to put them in their mouths,” said Jennifer Q. Tran, director of the Children’s National Safety Center and physician’s assistant at Children’s National Hospital in Washington D.C.

As for schools, Tran suggested teachers keep designated hand sanitizing stations at their desks so it’s in a supervised, safe and accessible place.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the best way for children to get rid of germs, including COVID-19.

Emily Samuel, program director at the nonprofit child safety organization Safe Kids Worldwide, said it’s anticipated that there will be more cleaning products and disinfectants in the home – including hand sanitizers – as families continue to take precautions during the pandemic. 

So, supervision is key.

“And while this can be challenging with multiple priorities between home, work and a child’s in-person or virtual education, there are 3 additional tips we share with parents and caregivers,” Samuel told Fox News.

-Store household products out of children’s reach and sight. 

Young kids are often eye-level with items on counters and under kitchen and bathroom sinks, so keep cleaning supplies, disinfects and hand sanitizers where children can’t reach them or see them. Caregivers can also use cabinet locks or latches for an added layer of protection.

-Keep household products in their original containers and read product labels to learn how to use and store products safely. 

Kids can get into things quickly, so remember not to leave cleaning products or disinfectants unattended while you are using them and put products away, out of reach and out of sight, immediately after using them.

-Save the Poison Help number in your phone and post it visibly at home in case a child gets into cleaning products or disinfectants: 1-800-222-1222. 

Specialists at poison control centers provide free, confidential, expert medical advice 24 hours a day. They can answer questions and help if there is a poison emergency.

*The American Association of Poison Control Centers advises that if an individual has collapsed, has a seizure, has trouble breathing or is unresponsive, families should call 911 immediately.

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