June 1988

Ethyl Alcohol (Ethanol)–Containing Cologne, Perfume, and After-shave Ingestions in Children

Author Affiliations

From the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, Denver (Mss Scherger and Wruk and Drs Kulig and Rumack), and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver General Hospital (Drs Kulig and Rumack).

Am J Dis Child. 1988;142(6):630-632. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1988.02150060064032

• Colognes, perfumes, and after-shaves containing ethyl alcohol (ethanol) are frequently ingested by children. These products may contain from 50% to 99% ethanol. To determine if ingestion of colognes, perfumes, or after-shaves by children results in serious ethanol toxic reactions, this retrospective study was performed. One hundred twenty-three cases of children younger than 6 years old who ingested these products were reviewed. The cases were arbitrarily divided into three groups based on the amount ingested by history. Group 1 included children in whom less than 30 mL was ingested; group 2, 30 to 60 mL was ingested; and group 3, more than 60 to 105 mL was ingested. Of the 102 patients in group 1, no children experienced symptoms or signs. One of 17 children in group 2 was described by parents as sleepy but was asymptomatic one hour later. Two of four children in group 3 behaved as if intoxicated, yet blood ethanol levels were undetectable within 2½ hours after ingestion. Based on our study, asymptomatic children who ingested by history less than 105 mL of a cologne, perfume, or after-shave and remain asymptomatic can be safely watched at home. All children with symptoms of intoxication need health care facility referral.

(AJDC 1988;142:630-632)