Research for infection protection

Risk of poisoning in the household: keep alcohol-based hand disinfectants away from your children's reach

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, hand disinfectants can be found not only in health care facilities but also in many private households. Many people now carry hand disinfectant in their handbag or even leave it in the stroller's storage space. On the one hand, this is practical since it is within easy reach. On the other hand, it poses a risk because children can easily grab it.

Pandemics increase calls to poison control services

For several months now, the German GIZ-Nord poison information centre and other poison emergency centres have been receiving an increasing number of calls from parents and supervisors about possible poisoning of their children who ingested hand disinfectants. Small children try many things and often put them in their mouths without understanding the dangers.

What should you do if you suspect that your child has ingested alcohol-based hand disinfectant?

Fortunately, most cases of children drinking alcohol-based hand disinfectants turn out well. Children often just take a small sip to taste and realise that they do not like the main component, alcohol. The GIZ-Nord provides the following advice if you suspect the ingestion of hand disinfectants: If your child has only taken a small sip and shows no symptoms, it is usually sufficient to give them some liquid and watch them closely for possible abnormalities. To counteract alcohol-induced hypoglycaemia, some carbonated drink or bread can help. If your child has taken more than a small sip, you should visit a paediatric clinic. If your child shows symptoms such as vomiting, vertigo or paleness, they should be examined by a doctor right away.

Dr. Herman Josef Kahl, paediatrician and member of the German expert committee of the Professional Association of Paediatricians (Berufsverband der Kinder- und Jugendärzte, BVKJ), also urgently warns against alcohol poisoning of children by hand disinfectants. Young children are particularly at risk because their livers can store less glycogen, making them more prone to hypoglycaemia. In the worst case, this can lead to convulsions, coma or even death.

Keep hand disinfectants and other sources of danger away from children's reach.

It is, therefore, the responsibility of parents and supervisors to protect children by keeping alcohol-based hand disinfectants out of their reach - whether by locking them away, storing them in tall cupboards or adopting any other appropriate measures. This also applies to medicines, cleaning and washing agents, houseplants, batteries and the like for which the GIZ-Nord also received an increased number of enquiries when day-care centres and schools were closed due to the pandemic.