Are Hand Sanitizers Safe and Effective for Children? [Ask the pediatrician] – Reading Eagle

Q: My family uses a lot of hand sanitizers during the pandemic. Is there anything harmful?

A: The best way to get rid of bacteria, including COVID-19, is to wash your hands with soap and clean water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, children can use hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol. However, keep in mind that ingesting hand sanitizers can cause poisoning in children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to keep hand sanitizers out of the reach of children. Don’t forget your handbags, diaper bags, backpacks and travel-sized bottles of sanitizer in your car. Parents and guardians should also supervise children under the age of 5 when using hand sanitizers.

Many hand sanitizers are made with alcohol or rubbing alcohol (ethanol, ethyl alcohol or isopropanol, isopropyl alcohol). Symptoms of alcoholism include imbalance, drowsiness, hypoglycemia, seizures and coma, which can be fatal.

Children and adults also became addicted after using hand sanitizers containing methanol (also known as wood alcohol, methyl alcohol, or methylated spirits). The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a recall for products containing methanol, which is toxic if swallowed or used repeatedly on the skin.

It can cause problems ranging from nausea and headaches to blindness, nervous system damage and death. The FDA’s import warning also warns of products found to contain another form of alcohol that should not be used in hand sanitizers: methanol and/or 1-propanol.

The National Toxicological Data System has received more reports of child exposure as families began purchasing more hand sanitizers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most are for children under 5 years old.

Health experts recommend using hand sanitizers, which contain 60% to 95% alcohol, to kill the virus that causes COVID-19. Drinks usually contain 5% to 40% alcohol. The FDA has begun to manufacture and sell hand sanitizers during a pandemic by companies that do not normally manufacture hand sanitizers. Before you buy or use any hand sanitizer, make sure it’s labeled with ingredients, warnings, and precautions. In addition, we recommend checking the banned list at

To reduce the risk of injury for children using hand sanitizers, manufacturers must add ingredients to make them feel bitter. This important step will help prevent children from eating the product. However, the FDA has warned that some young people have tried using hand sanitizers from distilleries that have not taken steps to make them taste bad.

You can check for bitter ingredients such as denatonium benzoate (Bitrex). sucrose octaacetate; or butanol (also known as tert-butyl alcohol). Current denatured hand sanitizers have a bitter taste, but old bottles of “denatured alcohol” that may contain toxic methanol should be discarded.

Pay particular attention to hand sanitizers made from isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) around the child. These can be more toxic than those made with ethanol or ethyl alcohol.

Homemade hand sanitizer recipes that are widely available on the Internet may not be the best option for your family. The FDA warns that hand sanitizers may not work if they are manufactured incorrectly. There are also reports of skin burns from homemade hand sanitizers. If your child falls, has a seizure, has trouble breathing, or does not wake up after using or swallowing hand sanitizer, call 911 immediately. Otherwise, call 1-800-222-1222 to access your local poison center.

If you are concerned about the risk of poisoning your child, consult a pediatrician. The Pediatric Environmental Health Unit in your area also has staff who can discuss safety issues with hand sanitizers with parents.

dr. Kevin C. Osterhoudt is medical director of the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital Toxicology Center and a member of the Executive Committee of the AAP Injury, Violence and Poisoning Prevention Council. For more information, visit AAP Parents’ website.

Are hand sanitizers safe and effective for children? [Ask the pediatrician] – Read Eagle

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