If you have small children in your house, hopefully you carefully read and heed all warning labels. Any product labeled “Keep out of reach of children. If swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.” should be locked away and used with extreme caution. One dangerous product that often gets overlooked is the hand sanitizer.
Hand sanitizers are becoming increasingly popular in schools, daycare centers, doctors’ offices, and hospitals. When hand washing is not convenient, hand sanitizers have proven valuable in reducing the spread of contagious illnesses. Hand washing is still the best way to remove dirt and decrease the spread of germs. Unfortunately, hand sanitizers are often left out in easy reach as if they were innocent lotions instead of the powerful chemicals that they are.
The Purell and Germ-X brands of hand sanitizers each contain 62% ethyl alcohol. Hand sanitizer is equivalent to 124 proof alcohol. To give a reference point, light beer is generally 6 proof (3% alcohol) and white wine is typically 24 proof (12% alcohol). It has more alcohol than vodka (80 proof)!
If a toddler ingests one or two ounces, or just three squirts of the hand sanitizer, IT COULD BE FATAL. Swallowing a smaller amount can cause intoxication or alcohol poisoning. Even a small amount licked from a child’s hand can cause dizziness, disorientation, headache, stomachache, slurred speech, etc.
Is Purell safe for children?
Purell is safe for children when used according to the directions. Children should be supervised when using Purell. All Purell Instant Hand Sanitizers contain an additive that tastes bitter and makes Purell undesirable to drink. As with all drug products, consult your physician before using on babies or young children.
Snopes.com, an excellent online resource to verify e-mail forwards and urban myths, talks about the dangers of hand sanitizers. They also do an excellent job explaining why children ingest non-food items.
We do not normally use hand sanitizer gels or wipes. At home, we wash the kids’ hands with antibacterial hand soap and plenty of warm water. When we go out, we use regular baby wipes to clean all surfaces that come in contact with the kids’ skin (high chairs, shopping cart handles, etc.). We also try to wash their hands in the washroom before and after eating.
We do keep small bottles of Purell in both our car and our diaper bag. We only use it in emergencies, such as after touching animals or changing diapers when there is no sink nearby. The kids make a game out of rubbing and shaking their hands until the gel is completely dry. We always remind our kids to keep their hands out of their mouths if we see them licking their hands or sucking their fingers, but we are especially vigilant after they use any type of hand sanitizer.
Here are some tips to help keep your children safe from hand sanitizers:
- Keep hand sanitizers out of reach of children (The packages are not childproof!)
- Closely supervise children during use
- Rub hands together until completely dry
- Explain that the hand sanitizer is dangerous if used improperly
- Remind children not to put their fingers or hands in their mouth, nose, or eyes after immediate use