Toddler gets drunk on hand cleaner

An Australian toddler who drank hand sanitiser and suffered severe alcohol poisoning has prompted a warning for parents to keep the products away from their kids.

In September 2014, a 3-year-old girl was found by doctors to have 260 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood - more than five times New Zealand's drink driving limit of 50mg per 100ml.

The girl's parents told doctors she and her 1-year-old sibling had been playing with a 375ml bottle of 70 per cent alcohol-based hand sanitiser while supervised by an adult.

In a review of the incident, published in the Medical Journal of Australia yesterday, Michael Barrett and Franz Babl said the child must have ingested no less than 55ml of the product - the equivalent of a quarter of a cup.

After she was admitted to intensive care, her condition improved and she was discharged within 24 hours.

In the report, Dr Barrett and Associate Professor Babl noted that "contrary to perceptions, preschool children are able to ingest enough alcohol-based hand sanitiser to develop severe ethanol toxicity".

"There should be an increased awareness of the hazards associated with alcohol sanitiser ingestion."

New Zealand's National Poisons Centre operations manager Lucy Shieffelbien said the organisation got calls "all the time" from parents whose child had ingested hand sanitiser.

"It's definitely not something that should be there for unsupervised use," she said.

But because it was bitter, when children did try it, they generally had nothing more than a small taste.

"Quarter of a cup is quite a mammoth effort - it's quite hardcore for a child to consume that," Ms Shieffelbien said.

She said the only major incident in New Zealand was when it was assumed a child had eaten hand sanitiser at an Invercargill childcare centre.

"That's the only severe case we've ever seen - when a child's ended up in hospital effectively drunk."

Last year, a 4-year-old girl became intoxicated at an Invercargill pre-school after supposedly drinking hand sanitiser.

And in 2011, three inmates at Rolleston Prison in Christchurch were found to be drunk on hand sanitiser.

"People need to be aware that it is a potentially dangerous substance that needs to be kept out of reach of children," Ms Shieffelbien said.

• If a child ingests hand sanitiser, they should be given something to eat and the National Poisons Centre should be contacted on 0800 POISON (0800 764-766).

- By Susan Strongman of the New Zealand Herald

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