Three-year-old suffers alcohol poisoning after drinking hand gel

Doctors are warning people to be careful with alcohol-based hand sanitisers after a three-year-old suffered severe alcohol poisoning while playing with a bottle at home. Last year, the toddler was taken to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital in an altered state of consciousness. Her parents said she had been playing with a bottle of hand sanitiser with her one-year-old sibling before she fell ill. After examining the child, doctors found she had a level of alcohol in her blood that was equivalent to five times the legal driving limit for adults. She was admitted to the intensive care unit where she recovered over 24 hours. The doctors estimated the toddler must have consumed at least 55ml of a product containing 70 per cent alcohol to reach that level of alcohol toxicity. Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, Dr Michael Barrett and Associate Professor Franz Babl said the case comes amid reports of teenagers intentionally ingesting alcohol-based hand sanitisers, which contain 60-95 per cent alcohol. “The Victorian Poisons Information Centre received a total of 15,729 calls in 2013 relating to children aged under five years, and reported that topical antiseptics/hand sanitisers was the fifth most frequent source of poison to which this age group was exposed,” they wrote. The doctors said people should be aware of the potentially fatal hazards alcohol-based sanitisers pose and they questioned whether current labels on the products notifying users of its flammability should also convey its toxic potential for parents, carers and children. In 2011, doctors at The Alfred hospital reported that a 45-year-old alcoholic patient drank six bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitiser – the equivalent of about 20 stubbies of beer. While the man made a full recovery, the doctors said there had been a string of similar incidents, including some overseas, that led to patients becoming seriously ill. “Experience at our institution over the past six months suggests that consumption of alcohol-based hand sanitisers by inpatients may be an increasing problem in [Australia] — we are aware of a further three patients who have consumed these products while at our institution,” they wrote in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2011.

The Age, 6 July 2015 ; ;