We received a report from a woman whose child began having seizures while taking a shower. The family immediately called for help. Paramedics took the 11-year-old child to a nearby hospital to be examined. All scans and x-rays were negative. Doctors then ordered blood tests on the child. It was found that the child had an elevated blood alcohol level. This was most likely the cause of the child’s symptoms.
Doctors asked the child’s mother if there was anything new or different that this normally healthy child was taking. It was then the child’s mother remembered giving the child SSS Tonic. SSS Tonic is an over-the-counter high potency liquid iron/B vitamin supplement. This product contains 12 percent alcohol, which is equivalent to a 24 proof beverage. The child was only taking this supplement for a few days and was taking the correct, recommended daily dose.
The child in this case had no other problems once the supplement was stopped.
Many dietary supplements and additional liquid medicines (*see at bottom of page) contain alcohol to help preserve the product. Typically, giving these products at the recommended doses is safe and not a cause for alarm. But, some children may not be able to tolerate these small amounts of alcohol that are in such products. In younger children, ethanol causes low blood glucose (an important sugar for brain cell function) because it suppresses the normal body functions that convert a liver substance called glycogen, which in children is not stored in quantities as large as adults. In kids who haven’t eaten for a while, even small quantities of ethanol can cause hypoglycemia.
Here’s what you can do: Carefully read the labels on all over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements. Look at both the active and inactive ingredients. Check to see if the product contains alcohol. Avoid giving medicines and dietary supplements that contain alcohol to children under the age of two. Never give more that the recommended dose unless instructed by your child’s doctor. Never give the next dose before it is time unless instructed by your child’s doctor. Avoid giving children more than one product that contains alcohol. Parents should always be aware of any changes in behavior or any type of reaction their child may have. This is especially important when new medicines or dietary supplements are being used. Contact your child’s doctor or pharmacist with any concerns you may have.
*A few of the other products that contain alcohol include certain formulations of Benadryl, Cheracol Plus, Dimetane, Donnatal, Geritol, Novahistine, Robitussin, Sominex, Triaminic, Tylenol and Vicks. Some remedies can contain up to 25 percent alcohol.