LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - According to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 70,000 kids drank hand sanitizer between 2011 and 2014.
The main ingredient in most hand sanitizers is alcohol, which can be very harmful to young kids who ingest it.
The study by the CDC looked into every incident involving a child under 12 that was reported to poison control centers across America, including cases of hand sanitizer being ingested both accidentally and intentionally.
The study shows the number of reported cases has skyrocketed since 2005, which one Lawton doctors said is troubling.
Most hand sanitizers are made up of between 60 and 95 percent alcohol, with a few being ethanol, like in alcoholic drinks. But most hand sanitizers use isopropyl alcohol.
"That is essentially toxic,” said Dr. Troy Harden, medical director at the Lawton Community Health Center. “It’s only designed to go on the outside of our skin and even there, it can cause problems if they get too much of it. Rubbing alcohol, would you want to drink rubbing alcohol? Not really."
Harden said the impact of ingesting hand sanitizer, or any type of alcohol, is significantly greater the younger you are.
"If a middle-aged adult consumes too much ethanol, then they kill some brain cells,” Harden said. “But if an adolescent does that, they kill a lot more brain cells and their living with that damage is much more impacting their life than that middle-aged person doing it."
Out of the 70,669 cases involving kids under 12 who ingested hand sanitizer, 64,488 were under the age of six and 38 of those kids drank it on purpose. Out of the remaining 6,181 kids, aged 6 to 12, 906 drank hand sanitizer intentionally.
“They might actually be looking for something that is altering their mental status,” Harden said. “They're looking for alcohol, it's easily accessible, they know a friend or hear somebody on the Internet who did it but what they don't know is how many people get in big trouble and very ill from that."
Harden said he thinks the accidental ingestion from kids zero to six can partially be attributed to kids simply putting things they find in their mouths, but he also thinks how readily available hand sanitizer is also plays a part.
"At school's now, it’s actually encouraged to have these products to prevent the cold and flu, that's the whole purpose of it,” Harden said. “But I believe that familiarity in some cases is actually working inappropriately for the kids thinking it's safe to drink it or eat it or play with it."
Going forward, how does Harden suggest we fix the growing trend of hand sanitizer ingestion? Education.
"All things around us can be dangerous and toxic,” Harden said. “We teach kids pretty early to not play in gasoline and things we know will hurt them and this is just another one of those items that we have to make sure they are educated in how they use them."
Harden said we are much better off simply washing our hands with soap and water, but if you are going to use hand sanitizer, he said you should always monitor your kids and never leave it just laying around.
If you think your child has ingested hand sanitizer, you can call the Oklahoma Poison Control Center at (800) 222 - 1222.