Health officials warn against drinking hand sanitizers to combat COVID-19

Do not drink or ingest hand sanitizers to fight or prevent COVID-19: that’s the message from federal and local health officials.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are liquids, gels, or foams that can disinfect hands. Such products should contain only ethanol or isopropanol. But Channel 11 News’ exchange partners at TribLIVE reported some products imported into the United States have been found to contain methanol, a toxic substance used to create fuel and antifreeze, according to federal officials.

Have questions about the spread of the coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.

People who use hand sanitizers containing methanol can suffer negative health effects, such as blindness or even death, federal officials said.

“Hand sanitizer, period, shouldn’t be drunk,” Dr. Michael Lynch, Medical Director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center, told The Trib. “It can be fairly caustic. There’s absolutely zero benefit or reason to drink it.”

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing that from May 1 through June 30, 15 people in New Mexico and Arizona were poisoned after drinking hand sanitizers containing methanol.

According to the report, four patients died, and three were discharged with visual impairments.

No one in Pennsylvania has reportedly ingested such products, but people have called state poison centers with concerns about using them on their skin, Lynch told TribLIVE.

Lynch told The Trib one of the reasons people may drink hand sanitizer is because it contains alcohol. Another reason is that people may think it can kill the coronavirus. But he said there is no evidence that drinking hand sanitizer will do that.