The thought of gulping down hand sanitizer is enough to trigger most anyone's gag reflex. But according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are tens of thousands of kids in the U.S. who do just that every year.
Sifting through the National Poison Data System, which records cases reported to the country's 55 poison centers, researchers calculated that just over 70,000 accidental exposures to hand sanitizers among kids younger than 12 had occurred from 2011 to 2014. The vast majority of these involved youngsters under the age of five who ingested hand sanitizer. And cases most commonly involved alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The CDC's findings were published Thursday in the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
Thankfully, there were no reported deaths from hand sanitizer poisonings. And even symptoms were relatively rare, with only 11.6 percent of kids feeling sick after their exposure. Despite ingestion being the most common kind of poisoning, a third of kids who did become sick experienced irritated eyes, while 10 percent reported reddened eyes. Vomiting, irritated mouths, and stomach pain were some of the most reported symptoms for kids who drank it. The most severe cases involved five kids who fell into a coma, three who experienced seizure, and two who had difficulty breathing.
RELATED: The 12 best diets for heart health
The 12 best diets for heart health
The 12 best diets for heart health
#12 The Fertility Diet
According to research from the Nurses' Health Study, on which The Fertility Diet is based, women who consume “good” fats, whole grains and plant protein improve their egg supply, while those who eat “bad” fats, refined carbohydrates and red meat may make fewer eggs and increase the risk for ovulatory infertility. Your heart may benefit from such an approach, too, suggests research finding that replacing animal protein with good carbohydrates might protect against heart attack, stroke or early death from cardiovascular disease and improve artery health and blood flow.
#8 (tie) Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet, which is based on the heart-healthy principles of the Mediterranean diet, reflects creator Andrew Weil’s belief that certain foods cause or combat systemic inflammation. According to the American Heart Association, inflammation is not a proven cause of cardiovascular disease, but it is common among heart disease patients. Plus, the program emphasizes a steady supply of omega-3 fatty acids, which research suggests protect against heart disease.
#8 (tie) Flexitarian Diet
Flexitarian is a marriage of two words: flexible and vegetarian. The plan revolves around the idea that you don’t have to eliminate meat completely to reap the health benefits associated with vegetarianism; an occasional burger is OK. One large 2015 study of more than 450,000 Europeans found that those who ate a diet of at least 70 percent plant-based foods had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than those who were least "pro-vegetarian." Earlier research suggests a semi-vegetarian diet also helps promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. As a bonus, it's good for the environment, one reviewer pointed out.
#8 (tie) Mayo Clinic Diet
Experts agree the Mayo Clinic Diet is a sound option for preventing or controlling heart problems. It focuses on coaching dieters to develop healthy, lasting habits around which foods they choose to eat and which to avoid. Plus, it reflects the medical community’s widely accepted definition of a heart-healthy diet: heavy on fruit, veggies and whole grains but light on saturated fat and salt.
#8 (tie) Vegetarian Diet
A vegetarian diet has the potential to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to experts, as long as vegetarians don’t load up on full-fat dairy and processed foods. As one expert reminds, "vegetarian diets can be healthy or unhealthy"; the beer-and-popcorn version is the latter. Still, if you take a well-informed approach, a vegetarian plan is a good bet for heart-conscious dieters, especially those who don’t have the heart to eat animals anyway.
#7 Engine 2 Diet
This low-fat, “plant strong” diet was created by Rip Esselstyn, a firefighter, former professional athlete and medical scion. It’s thought to prevent and often reverse diseases, like heart disease, caused by the so-called Standard American Diet and should also help keep cholesterol and blood pressure in check. If you adopt the Engine 2 Diet, you’ll load up on fruit, vegetables and whole grains and slash all animal products, processed foods and vegetable oils from your diet.
#6 Vegan Diet
Veganism earned high marks for its potential to boost cardiovascular health. It emphasizes the right foods – fruit, veggies and whole grains – while steering dieters away from meat, dairy and salty, processed choices. In a 12-year study that compared 6,000 vegetarians with 5,000 meat-eaters, for example, researchers found that the vegans in the group had a 57 percent lower risk of ischemic heart disease than the meat eaters. (The condition involves reduced heart pumping due to coronary artery disease and often leads to heart failure.) Just keep in mind that vegans may need to take supplements to make up for some heart-protective nutrients like the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish.
#5 MIND Diet
This plan is a mashup of two other expert-endorsed diets – DASH and Mediterranean – and zeroes in on the foods in each that specifically affect brain health (think green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine). Turns out, the heart likes the same foods, studies show. A downfall of the MIND diet: Physical activity, proven important for heart health, is not addressed in the plan, some experts pointed out.
#4 Mediterranean Diet
What can’t this eating style do? The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a decreased risk for heart disease, and it’s also been shown to reduce blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol. One 2015 study even showed that Italian vegans, vegetarians and others who followed a mostly Mediterranean diet had more short-chain fatty acids, which are linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Since the approach largely shuns saturated fat (which contributes to high cholesterol) and includes healthier mono- and polyunsaturated fats in moderation (which can reduce cholesterol), you’ll do your heart a favor by following it.
#3 TLC Diet
The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet, created by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program, claims to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol by 8 to 10 percent in six weeks. Research concurs: In one Journal of Lipid Research study, participants who shifted from a typical American diet to the TLC Diet reduced their LDL cholesterol by 11 percent after 32 days. No matter your aim, the diet is "very healthy and safe for all individuals," one expert said.
#1 (tie) DASH Diet
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension program, or DASH, was created to help control high blood pressure – and it works. One expert called it "by far the best with data to back up lowering hypertension." Indeed, extensive research suggests it's one of your best bets if you want to lower your blood pressure as well as improve other markers of cardiovascular health. If you adopt the diet, you’ll emphasize the foods you’ve always been told to eat (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy), while shunning those we’ve grown to love (calorie- and fat-laden sweets and red meat).
#1 (tie) The Ornish Diet
This rules-heavy plan has ranked No. 1 for heart health for seven consecutive years, although this year it shares the title with the DASH diet. Followers adhere to a strict regimen: Only 10 percent of calories can come from fat, very little of it saturated, and most foods with any cholesterol or refined carbohydrates, oils, excessive caffeine and nearly all animal products are banned. Research suggests the Ornish Diet, combined with stress-management techniques, exercise, social support and smoking cessation, could actually reverse heart disease.
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These severe cases were slightly more likely to happen with alcohol-based hand sanitizers, though there were little overall difference in the risk posed by either type. The fact that older kids were more likely to knowingly down the former, though, indicates that at least some were trying to get an alcohol buzz. Poisonings were also less likely to happen during the summer, likely because hand sanitizers were more plentiful during flu season and in schools, the researchers said.
Unlike previous years that saw a rise, the number of hand sanitizer poisonings does appear to have stayed level. But the authors stress parents should be aware of these products' unique dangers and do their best to keep them out of their kids' grasp when not needed. Better yet, they suggested, parents might want to avoid hand sanitizers completely and just rely on plain soap and water instead.