In the wake of COVID-19, hand sanitizer is everywhere. Many public places offer hand sanitizer stations, while dispensers are situated in bathrooms, school hallways, and doctor’s offices. However, hand sanitizer is regulated as an over-the-counter drug because it contains alcohol.
Children should never be allowed to use hand sanitizer without supervision, and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests keeping it out of children’s reach altogether. However, in most cases, children 3 and older can use hand sanitizer safely under your watchful eye, but there are some cases to use additional caution. Here is what you should know when buying hand sanitizer for your facility where children are present.
What Kind of Alcohol is in Hand Sanitizer?
Most alcohol-based hand sanitizers use rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol, isopropanol) or alcohol (ethanol, ethyl alcohol). Methanol and 1-propanol products have been recalled by the Food and Drug Administration. According to the Center for Disease Control, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, you must use a hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol and above.
You’ll find that most hand sanitizers contain 60% to 95% alcohol, with the highest ranges reserved for medical and industrial sanitizers. However, even in the lower ranges, ingesting just a little sanitizer can lead to alcohol poisoning in children. If it absorbs through an incomplete skin barrier, like in babies and toddlers, the results can be deadly.
Symptoms of hand sanitizer poisoning can include nausea, seizures, coma, or death. If you suspect alcohol poisoning, call the Poison Control Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222.
Babies and Toddlers
Babies and toddlers should never use hand sanitizer. Even putting their hands in their mouths after applying hand sanitizer can be enough to cause alcohol poisoning if their hands are still wet. You need to ensure the sanitizer has thoroughly dried first.
If your child has any open cuts on their hands, avoid hand sanitizer completely because alcohol will sting the wound and can enter the bloodstream through the cut.
Babies and toddlers do not always have a fully formed stratum corneum or the outermost layer of skin. In some cases, alcohol can penetrate this barrier and enter the bloodstream, causing alcohol poisoning.
The best thing to do for babies and toddlers is wash their hands with soap and clean running water. You can keep a small bottle of gentle baby-safe soap in their diaper bags. Lather their hands by rubbing the soap into their palms and fingers and rubbing their hands together. Be sure to get under their fingernails and between their fingers. Do this for 20 seconds, then rinse thoroughly with running water for at least 20 seconds. Allow their hands to air dry or use a clean towel.
Children Ages 3-5
Supervise children with hand sanitizer over 2 years old. They can still get alcohol poisoning if they ingest it or apply too much on their hands and then put their hands in their mouths. Continue to watch for open wounds, and opt for hand washing to maintain hand hygiene whenever possible.
Children Ages 7-12 and Teenagers
By age 7, most children can grasp how to use hand sanitizer properly and need minimal supervision. Instruct children to allow their hands to dry fully before eating or putting their hands near their mouths. If your child is developmentally disabled, it may take longer for them to learn how to use it safely. Continue to patiently supervise them as needed.
There have been reported issues with teenagers drinking hand sanitizers as a cheap and accessible way to get drunk. However, the high levels of alcohol make hand sanitizer extremely dangerous to consume. Keep hand sanitizer locked up and limit the amount of hand sanitizer they have access to by providing purse- or pocket-sized containers for daily use.
Practice Safe Hand Sanitation in Your Facility
When you don’t have access to soap and water, hand sanitizer is a convenient way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses. However, you must keep hand sanitizer out of the reach of young children without supervision.
At ICU Production, Inc., we offer a wide range of PPE for all of your organization’s needs. Call us for more information at (323) 970-2532.