It's a convenient product that many of us rely on when we're on the go and in need of clean hands.
But if you have hand sanitizer in your home, or your bag or in the classroom, the Georgia Poison Center has a new warning for you.
On Tuesday, officials said that over the last five and a half years, they have received nearly 3,600 calls for children who have gotten sick from drinking hand sanitizer. Most of those calls, nearly 85 percent, are for children under the age of 12.
11Alive spoke to Gaylord Lopez, the director of the Georgia Poison Center, who said back-to-school time is the best time to make people aware of the dangers of hand sanitizer, because it's ubiquitous on many school supply lists.
"They're going home in backpacks, they're in school classrooms and the problem is there's little awareness about how dangerous these products are," Lopez said.
Lopez warned teachers to keep a close eye on bottles of sanitizer around the classroom, and advised parents to keep containers out of the reach of young children.
He compared the antibacterial cleaners to "an open bottle of whiskey," and said in some cases, hand sanitizer has twice the amount of alcohol than vodka.
"Putting a bottle of vodka is a lot more safer in someone's backpack than putting a bottle of hand sanitizer," Lopez asserted.
He said while there are some cases of people drinking hand sanitizer as a way to get drunk, more cases are accidental. All it takes is a few sips to land a child in the hospital, he said. In some instances, Lopez said children tested at a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit for most DUIs.
Lopez said the reason ingesting the liquid can be so dangerous is because, like any alcohol-based compound, it can interfere with the nervous system and can even cause someone to stop breathing, which is a serious matter.
That's why Lopez said is especially important for parents and other adults to stay vigilant, especially now that sanitizers come in all sorts of scented varieties, which children could mistake as something fruity to drink.
If people have questions about hand sanitizers, they're asked to contact the poison center online or call (404) 616-9000 in emergencies.
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