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Some Hospital Patients May Ingest Alcohol Hand Rubs

Case report warns hospitals that misuse is possible among certain groups of patients

FRIDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Alcohol hand rubs in hospitals are potentially hazardous to young, confused, elderly or alcohol-dependent patients who may be likely to unintentionally or intentionally ingest them, according to a case report published in the Dec. 1 issue of BMJ.

John R.H. Archer, of Guy's and St. Thomas' Poisons Unit at Guy's and St. Thomas NHS Foundation Trust in London, U.K., and colleagues described the case of an alcohol-dependent woman who was treated under hospital alcohol withdrawal protocol. She was found collapsed in her room holding an empty 500 mL bottle of alcohol hand rub with another empty bottle lying next to her and received emergency treatment.

After searching the Guy's and St. Thomas' Poisons Unit's database, the researchers found that a significant increase in the total number of inquiries about alcohol rubs to the poisons unit occurred after the widespread introduction of such rubs. They found that unintentional ingestion was most likely to occur among young, confused or elderly patients, and that intentional ingestion occurred only in those with alcohol dependency.

"With the wide distribution of these products in hospitals, the possibility of unintentional exposure, self-harm, and misuse is more apparent," the authors conclude. "This is particularly important in patient areas that are easily accessible by those thought to be at high risk of ingestion. In these areas the larger hand rub dispensers (500 mL or more) could be placed within locked secured holders preventing unintentional or intentional withdrawal of the container and ingestion."

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