United Kingdom

Child, 5, in hospital after ingesting hand sanitiser supplied at school by licking their hands

A five-year-old child has been hospitalised after ingesting hand sanitiser supplied at school by licking their hands.

An Education Department spokeswoman told WA Today the child became unwell on Monday in class after licking their hands once they had used the product provided to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The spokeswoman said school staff immediately called the student's parents, who picked their child up then sought medical treatment at Fiona Stanley Hospital, in Perth's south.

Hand sanitiser has become a hot commodity in the fight against coronavirus, with the solution now widely available in public spaces, such as in businesses, offices, shopping centres and schools.

A young student was hospitalised on Monday after licking their hands after applying hand sanitiser (stock)

WA Education Minister Sue Ellery affirmed all schools would have hand sanitiser once classes resumed, which would be supplied by the department if schools could not access it on their own.

It comes as poison centres across the country have reported a surge in reports involving the product since its use has increased amid the pandemic. 

However, Education Department deputy director general for schools Stephen Baxter said there was nothing to suggest the product is being widely misused by students in schools. 

He said teachers have been reminding students not to touch their mouths after applying hand sanitister. 

'Teachers encourage their students to frequently clean their hands and to do so safely,' he said.

'This includes reminding younger students not to touch their mouths after using hand sanitiser or soap.'

A WA Health Department spokesperson said the antiseptic ethanol ingredient in hand sanitiser could cause serious harm in children and adults if ingested in sufficient quantities. 

The five-year-old was taken to Fiona Stanley Hospital (pictured) in Perth's south for medical treatment

'In very young children, accidental exposure to small amounts, such as a young child licking their hands, will not cause toxicity,' she said.

'Commercial products sometimes contain ingredients to make the taste unpleasant to children.' 

They said that although poison centres are experiencing increased calls, serious cases of toxicity are very rare.

However, they urged users to always follow manufacturers instructions as hand sanitiser is topical and toxic if ingested. 

Parents are advise to keep hand sanitiser out of reach of children and supervise when it is being used. 

In April, the New South Wales Poisons Information Centre fielded 164 calls about hand sanitiser poisoning, almost three times higher than the 65 calls received during the same month last year. 

If ingestion is suspected, the Poisons Information Centre should be immediately called on 13 11 26 (24 hours a day) and urgent medical advice sought. 

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