“Young children may accidentally swallow these products. But teenagers or adults may intentionally swallow these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute.”

When hand hygiene was increasingly emphasized some years ago with the emergence of drug-resistant “Super Bugs” like Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA), emergency departments and clinics began placing containers of alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs (ABHSR) in every patient room.

It did not take long before there were reports of “patients” who signed in for evaluation, but left before they were seen by a clinician after they had spiked their drink container with some of the hand sanitizer that was mostly ethanol.

More recently, as we fight the novel coronavirus pandemic, most commercially available alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs contain either ethanol or isopropanol (commonly called rubbing alcohol) as active ingredients.

However, last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised consumers not to use any hand sanitizer manufactured by “Eskbiochem SA de CV” in Mexico, due to the potential presence of methanol (commonly called wood alcohol) as an active ingredient.

This toxic alcohol can cause blindness and/or death when absorbed through the skin or when swallowed.

Since then, the FDA has identified additional ABHSR products that contain methanol and is working with manufacturers and distributors on a voluntary recall of these products. However, some people may already have one of these products in their homes.

If you have any alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs, you should do the following:

Seek immediate medical attention and contact the poison center (1-800-222-1222) for advice if an ABHSR product has been swallowed or symptoms developed after repeated use of a product that is on the FDA’s testing and manufacturer’s recalls list — fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitzers-methanol
Stop using any ABHSR that is on the FDA’s list because using these methanol-containing products may result in serious adverse health events, including blindness and/or death. Dispose of it immediately in appropriate hazardous waste containers. Do not flush or pour it down the drain.

Never swallow ABHSR or use them for anything other than their intended purpose.

Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs out of reach of children and supervise their use.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed with the New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center that seven patients had serious health issues after they were said to have consumed alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs.

Significant blood methanol concentrations were detected in all patients. Four of them died. Three became critically ill, one of whom recovered with loss of vision.

The CDC also confirmed with the Arizona Department of Health Services that the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center reported an additional six patients who are said to have swallowed alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs. This caused critical illness and at least one case of permanent blindness.

It is clear that hand hygiene is an important part of the response to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic virus. So, do not let this news stop you from practicing good hand hygiene, which can include using alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs.

This is just a warning to check the products you use to make sure they are not on the FDA list at the website noted above. Repeated use of those products on the skin may result in methanol poisoning. However, the highest risk for methanol poisoning is by swallowing products containing methanol.
It should be remembered that young children may accidentally swallow these products. But teenagers or adults may intentionally swallow these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute.

The effects of methanol and ethanol poisoning are similar, including headache, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of coordination and decreased level of consciousness. However, methanol poisoning may result in severe metabolic acidosis, blindness and can be deadly if untreated.

Treatment of methanol poisoning includes supportive care, administration of an alcohol dehydrogenase inhibitor, and may even require hemodialysis.

We all know that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” which applies to both methanol poisoning and the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, maintain six feet of social distance, wear a mask (especially when you cannot maintain that six foot buffer), use good hand hygiene, stay home when you are sick, and go outdoors when you can. Protect the most vulnerable among us. Stay safe and healthy.

By Dr. Terry Gaff
Published Jul 12, 2020
https://www.kpcnews.com