Made up of 65 percent ethyl alcohol, hand sanitizers are formulated to kill nearly 100 percent of germs. But teenagers are using it to get drunk. Eight teens have recently been treated at San Fernando Valley emergency rooms.
"It has been actually a trend that's been going on for some time, but we're just now starting to see it hit the Los Angeles area," said Helen Arbogast of Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Videos on YouTube show teens drinking hand sanitizer. Doctors say some young people are drinking it straight, while others find ways online to separate the alcohol, making it just as potent as hard liquor.
"We're talking about 120-proof alcoholic beverages, so that's like several shots of hard liquor," said Dr. Cyrus Rangan, a toxicology expert. "A few swallows is all it takes to get a person to get the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
Calls to poison control involving teens deliberately ingesting hand sanitizer are on the rise. There have been 16 cases last month, and 2600 statewide since 2010.
Doctors say parents should buy foam sanitizer instead of the gel kind, and to check the levels on the bottles kept at home.
Teens could end up in a coma if they drink too much hand sanitizer. Anyone who suspects an overdose can call poison control 24 hours a day at (800) 222-1222.