Hand Sanitizer: Is Your Child Exposed to the Dangers?

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Keep Kids Safe from Possible Dangers of Hand Sanitizer

Staying inside during the colder months means it is easier for germs to spread. Hand sanitizer is a popular way to stay germ free, but the seemingly safe liquid could pose a health risk for kids.

Certainly there’s no substitute for good hand-washing. But as flu season comes into full swing, you’ll start to see hand sanitizer popping up everywhere — from the grocery checkout line to school classrooms and probably even in your own home.

Although hand sanitizer is a quick, convenient way to reduce germs on sticky little hands, parents should use caution. Many hand sanitizers come in brightly colored containers filled with glitter and smelling like food or candy. With this in mind, a bottle of sanitizer may look like a tasty treat to small children. 

“The largest concern with ingesting hand sanitizer is the exposure to alcohol,” says Elaine Cudnik, APRNRenown Medical Group Pediatrics.

Hand Sanitizer and Alcohol Poisoning

Two specific threats are posed to children when swallowing alcohol. First, it has the potential to lower their blood sugar levels which can increase the risk for seizures. In rare cases, this can result in coma or death. Secondly, alcohol has a sedative effect. It naturally lowers the heart and breathing rate of children, which can lead to weakness, dizziness, fainting or fatigue.

“However, it is important to note that a child would have to ingest much more than just a taste of hand sanitizer for these side effects to occur,” says Dr. Cudnik.

So, how much hand sanitizer is dangerous? As an example.

If one pump of hand sanitizer was swallowed by an average 2-year-old weighing 33 pounds, the blood alcohol level would be considerably below a toxic level In other words this child would have to drink about 4-5 teaspoons of the sanitizer to have toxic effects requiring medical attention.

If you suspect your child has swallowed any amount of hand sanitizer, you should immediately call poison control at 800-222-1222. “It is highly likely that a child would vomit immediately after ingesting a large volume of hand sanitizer, because the soap and alcohol would probably upset their stomach,” says Elaine. “Conversely, a child who doesn’t vomit may be in bigger trouble.”

Do you have to give hand sanitizer the boot?

Dr. Cudnik says no, and offers the tips below to keep your children safe and healthy.

  • Keep hand sanitizer out of reach, and only allow children to use it under adult supervision.
  • Do not purchase large-volume bottles. Instead, buy trial-size containers or small hand pumps for home use so children only have access to a limited amount.
  • Get your children into the habit of good old-fashioned hand washing with soap and water  this is the best method for preventing the spread of germs.
  • Encourage your children to cover their cough with a tissue and discard it immediately after coughing.
  • When your children are ill, keep them home and restrict activities to prevent the spread of disease.

Hand sanitizer is not the only household products that can be dangerous to your children. Keep all potential poisons in your home out of sight and reach of children including:

  • cleaning products
  • medications
  • cosmetics
  • toiletries
  • art supplies

RELATED:  Health Numbers and Kids: A Pediatrician Reveals What You Need to Know

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