Entries in Hand Sanitizer (4)


Teens Getting Drunk on Hand Sanitizer 

Hemera/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- As many as six California teenagers were hospitalized with alcohol poisoning last month, and two last weekend alone, from drinking hand sanitizer.

Coming on the heels of cough medicine, hand sanitizer is the latest in a string of household products used to induce intoxication, and it has public health officials worried, as a few squirts of hand sanitizer could equal a couple of shots of hard liquor.

“This is a rapidly emerging trend,” Dr. Cyrus Rangan, medical toxicology consultant for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said in a news conference Tuesday.

About 2,600 cases have been reported in California since 2010, but it’s become a national problem.

“It’s not just localized to us,” Helen Arbogast, an injury prevention coordinator in the trauma program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, told ABC News. “Since 2009 we can see on YouTube it’s in all regions of the country. We see it in the South, in the Midwest, in the East.”

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Liquid hand sanitizer is 62- to 65-percent ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, the main ingredient in beer, wine and spirits, making it 120-proof. To compare, a bottle of vodka is 80-proof.

“A few swallows is all it takes to get a person to get the intoxicated effects of alcohol,” Rangan said.

Doctors said ingesting hand sanitizer can produce the same side effects as consuming large amounts of alcohol -- slurred speech, unresponsiveness, possibly falling into a coma state.

Rangan warned that long-term use could lead to brain, liver and kidney damage.

Teenagers use salt to break up the alcohol from the sanitizer to get a more powerful dose. These distillation instructions can be found on the Internet in tutorial videos that describe in detail how to do it. Other troubling videos have surfaced online showing kids laughing as they purposely ingested sanitizer, many boasting of fulfilling a dare.

Dr. Sean Nordt, director of toxicology at the USC Los Angeles County Emergency Department, told ABC News it used to get reports of children accidentally consuming small amounts of hand sanitizer, but now the trend is toward purposeful ingestion by those who cannot purchase or obtain alcohol legally.

“We get worried about children getting into these, but it is different from an adolescent who is trying to drink half a bottle to get drunk,” said Nordt.

And it’s a tough problem to combat, as hand sanitizer is inexpensive and seems to be available at the entrance of every door. Young people can buy pocket-size bottles, which can be the equivalent of two-three shots of hard liquor, or huge tubs at most markets and stores.

Arbogast said foam hand sanitizer was a safer option to keep around the house, but “any hand sanitizer will be at risk for alcohol poisoning, as the foam type is still 62-percent ethyl alcohol,” she said at Tuesday's news conference.

Rangan cautioned parents to treat hand sanitizers “like we treat any medication in the home as far as safety is concerned. Keep it out of reach, out of sight, out of mind when not in use.”

Nordt said he hoped parents and store clerks would become more vigilant and monitor the sales of hand sanitizers.

“Most stores will sell it to an adolescent without thinking twice,” Nordt told ABC News. “Maybe now they will.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Protect Yourself from the Germiest Spots at Malls

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While the health hazards of increasingly competitive holiday shopping now include stampedes and pepper-spraying, bargain hunters can help assure that all they bring home from the mall are good deals, not other people's cold and flu viruses.

Shopping centers that teem with people also teem with their germs.  But alcohol-based hand sanitizers and good old-fashioned hand-washing can defeat most common microbes.

Before hitting the mall, it pays to plan how you'll deal with germy hot spots:

The Air

Hand sanitizers and hand-washing cannot protect you from what's floating in the air, said Dr. William Schaffner, the chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. "The great hazard is being that close to so many people and being in everyone's breathing space," he said.

"We live in a world that's not sterile, but what we'd like to do is be hygienic, so let's try to avoid the obvious coughers and sneezers in the crowd.  Go to another counter until they've passed," Schaffner advised. "If you are coughing and sneezing, put off your shopping a bit, which would be the kindest thing from a public health point of view."

Public Restrooms

Public restrooms can be a germ-laden nightmare, but they're also where you can wash away unwelcome microbes.  Although soap dispensers and faucet handles "can be a little nasty," after being touched by people who have just done their business in the stalls, you can wash your hands thoroughly, then grab a paper towel and quickly turn off the faucet with the towel, Schaffner said.

Food Court Tables

Think about how many people have touched the tables, napkin dispensers and chair backs at a mall food court or restaurant, and you have another reason to wash your own hands or use a hand sanitizer.  Just as kitchen sponges offer a warm, moist environment that lets food bacteria to multiply, the rags used to wipe down dirty tabletops are "a decent medium for bacteria to dwell in," said Dr. Jeffrey Boscamp, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.

Escalator Handrails

Most people grip the handrails when riding escalators inside malls and stores, leaving behind normal skin bacteria plus other germs picked up from rubbing their noses or mouths.  Schaffner said he's not too worried about this particular hazard.

"If you use your hand sanitizer periodically during your afternoon safari at the mall, I think you'll be pretty well-protected," he said

Toy Stores

All those sniffling tots inside toy stores, along with the healthy ones who just like to put everything in their mouths, can leave invisible coatings of germs behind -- not to mention what they spew into the air when they sneeze or cough.

"The number of hygienic children in the United States I can count on the fingers of my hands," Schaffner said.  "I have to admit, children are the great disseminators of respiratory viruses.  They do so because, first of all, when a virus infects a child, the child actually breathes out a lot of virus, more so than adults.  They do so for a longer period of time."

Electronics Stores

The slick surfaces of smart phones and tablet computers can harbor a variety of germs, including staph, capable of living several hours.  However, just because environmental hygienists can swab such surfaces and find a variety of bacteria doesn't mean they necessarily will make you sick, said Schaffner.

"Try out your candidate iPhone, look at it, play with it, and then do you hand sanitizer thing," he said.

Some Surfaces Not to Worry About

Although women frequently hear they should avoid shared testers at makeup counters, "infections associated with shared makeup are virtually nonexistent," Schaffner said.  "They are not a recognized public health problem."

Worries about picking up germs from ATMs at the mall might be exaggerated, too, even if you've never see a bank employee wiping down ATM keys.

"If for some reason, you're a little queasy [about uncleaned keys], go the ATM, get your cash and use your hand sanitizer," Schaffner said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA Warns Hand Sanitizer Companies on False Claims

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to four companies who claim their over-the-counter products prevent infection by methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), H1N1 flu virus and E. coli.

The companies are:
•    Tec Laboratories for Staphaseptic First Aid Antiseptic/Pain Relieving Gel;
•    JD Nelson and Associates for Safe4Hours Hand Sanitizing Lotion and Safe4Hours First Aid Antiseptic Skin Protectant;
•    Dr. G.H. Tichenor Antiseptic Co. for Dr. Tichenor's Antiseptic Gel;
•    Oh So Clean, Inc dba CleanWell Company for CleanWell All-Natural Foaming Hand Sanitizer, CleanWell All-Natural Hand Sanitizer, CleanWell All-Natural Hand Sanitizing Wipes, and CleanWell All-Natural Antibacterial Foaming Handsoap.

The FDA says they do not have sufficient evidence that the products are effective in fighting the infections. The companies which make hand sanitizers and lotions were given 15 days to correct the stated violations.

"MRSA is a serious public health threat," said Deborah Autor, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "The FDA cannot allow companies to mislead consumers by making unproven prevention claims."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hand Sanitizers Stop Working After Two Minutes, Specialists Say

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DALLAS) -- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that keeping the hands clean is one of the most effective ways that people can prevent sickness and the passing of germs to others.  Additionally, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water is unavailable.

While 71 percent of the people that use hand sanitizers say they get peace of mind from using the soap and water substitute, infection prevention specialists say hand sanitizers may eliminate germs on contact, but the effects only last for about two minutes.

"This is a common misperception among consumers," said Lawton Seal, Ph.D., S.M., director of medical science for infection prevention at Healthpoint Ltd.  "People are unaware that they are vulnerable to germs almost immediately after they cleanse their hands with short-acting hand sanitizers."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio