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Surge in Spain of cases of children suffering poisoning after ingesting hand-sanitising gels

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The number of children in Spain being treated for poisoning after ingesting hand-sanitising gels has surged since the coronavirus pandemic has made the product a ubiquitous part of everday life, the country’s toxicology institute has said.

The Spanish national toxicological and forensic institute said on Wednesday the total reported intoxications from those gels so far this year, at 874, was almost 10 times the number reported in all of 2019.

Children, especially toddlers, accounted for almost two-thirds of the cases. Most of them had swallowed the gel, while a much smaller proportion got it in their eyes, or had been intoxicated after inhaling the product.

“Most common symptoms were digestive tract irritation, vomiting, diarrhoea, coughing, red eyes, tears or blurring vision,” the institute said in a report.

About 80% of the cases had symptoms that “reversed in a short time”.

The four or five cases of serious gel poisoning in the country involved only adults, according to a spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry, which oversees the institute. No fatalities were reported, she said.

In Spain, sanitising-gel dispensers are now available at all train stations, stores, schools and public bathrooms, where they are free of charge, as well as in private homes and cars.

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