We came across this alarming piece of “news” from the Parenting column at Cityweekend about hand sanitizers and your children (dun dun dun!). Apparently, they had just “heard” the following story about a young four-year-old named Halle who was rushed to the ER for being severely lethargic and incoherent in her classroom.
They couldn’t find anything wrong with her at one hospital (blood test after blood test!) and so they transferred to another for more testing to be done. AND HERE COMES THE TWIST:
Right as we were leaving the in the ambulance, her teacher arrived at the ER and told us that, after questioning Halle’s classmates, she had found out that our little girl had licked liquid hand sanitizer off of her hands.
When we arrived at the Saint Francis’ Hospital’s ER, we told the ER doctor to check her blood alcohol level, and yes we did get weird looks, but they did it. The results showed her blood alcohol level was 85% -six hours after we took her to the hospital. There is no telling what it would have been if we would have requested it at the first ER.
After doing research on the Internet, we found out that it only takes about three squirts of the stuff ingested to be fatal to a toddler. For Halle’s blood alcohol level to be so high, it would like someone her size drinking 120 proof liquor!”
Internet skeptics that we are, we were immediately struck by how anyone could possibly have a blood alcohol level of 85%, especially since most alcohols don’t have an alcohol level of 85%. Eyebrows were also raised over the fact that this wouldn’t have been detected in a blood test and that any doctor in any hospital would give anyone a weird look about about a kid possibly having ingested an alcohol-based poison.
So we googled it. Turns out it’s a chain letter. Like many chain letters, it is filled with half truths and exaggerations – though, luckily for Cityweekend, this one wasn’t quite as out there (we recently received one about mini lobsters causing lung infections).
According to Snopes, it is actually possible for kids to get alcohol poisoning from hand sanitizers. Sanitizers like Purell or Germ-X contain about 62% Ethyl Alcohol and swallowing about an ounce or two could knock out a toddler – if they have a genetical predisposition to being a lightweight; many medical technicians argue that much more sanitizer than one single application would be needed to result in alcohol toxicity.
Though the emails call for an outright ban of the stuff, Snopes notes that in a study by Children’s Hospital Boston, having sanitizer on hand (as opposed to literature about washing your hands frequently) reduced gastrointestinal illnesses by 59%. We’d imagine the percentage would be even greater in a place like Shanghai.
So basically, if you can’t commit to soap and water before snack times, Purell could be a great help in keeping your kid healthy. Also, the internet is a wealth of information – but as we’ve learned a couple times the hard way, it pays to keep your hysteria in check and do a little more research.