Using alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available can help protect you from the coronavirus—but drinking it can leave you blind or dead, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns. The CDC said that in Arizona and New Mexico in May and June, at least 15 people were hospitalized after ingesting hand sanitizer, CNN reports. Of those, four patients died and three were discharged from hospitals with "new visual impairments," including a 44-year-old man who suffered near-total vision loss. The CDC says that while drinking any kind of alcohol-based sanitizer is unsafe, these cases involved methanol, which is extremely dangerous to ingest even in small quantities.
The CDC said at least some of the patients had consumed the hand sanitizer because of its alcohol content, and its report stated "all patients had a history of swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizer products." The FDA issued a warning last month about a rise in hand sanitizers labeled as containing ethanol that actually contained methanol, which is also toxic when absorbed by the skin. The agency's updated list of products to avoid can be seen here. The CDC says poison control centers across American have been told to be on the lookout for cases of methanol poisoning. "All alcohol-based hand sanitizers should only be used to disinfect hands and should never be swallowed," its report said. "Children using hand sanitizers should be supervised, and these products should be kept out of reach of children when not in use." (More hand sanitizer stories.)