Hubby recently told me about hearing something about the danger of using alcohol hand sanitisers on children. He had heard it on the radio and it had something to do with Myth Busters so he reckoned there was truth to the statement.
Since we’ve been starting to use hand sanitisers on Gavin as a means of disinfecting his hands while we are out, I thought I had better take a closer look at this subject.
We all know that children are by nature curious. They commonly use all five senses to take in information about the world around them so that they may better learn about it. That also means they end up putting a lot of things we would rather not know about into their mouths – including sweet smelling hand sanitisers, if we’re not looking.
Why are hand sanitisers so dangerous to children? Because of their small stature and the high concentration of alcohol within hand sanitisers required to make it effective. Hand sanitisers contain anywhere between 60-70% ethyl alcohol. In other words, ethanol, the same stuff we consume which makes us high if taken in sufficient quantities. One little 2-ounce bottle of hand sanitiser is equivalent to about 4 shots of vodka.
A small child licking a dollop of hand sanitiser would be the equivalent of giving that child a sip of hard liquor. And if the child happens to gain access to the whole bottle…? Ordinarily, as parents we keep most poisons under lock and key or way out of reach of our children. Yet, here is a product that is dangerous which we keep within ready access to use on our children.
No one denies that hand sanitisers have their uses. In this day and age of H1N1, hand sanitisers also provide a viable alternative to hand washing for reducing the risks of picking up or transmitting disease. So should we use hand sanitisers with children or ban them completely?
Firstly, I think we should assess the real risks that hand sanitisers pose to children. Are the dangers of hand sanitisers to children really that bad? It appears the jury is still out and even the healthcare professionals are undecided at present.
What can we do in the interim when it comes to using hand sanitisers in children?
- If you can, choose an alcohol-free hand sanitiser. I’ve tried searching online for some brands of alcohol-free hand sanitisers and here are a few that I have discovered (although I don’t know whether they are available locally) – Soapopular, Oxi Brands, Pro-Tex. If you know of any more, please drop me a comment below.
- If you must use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, make sure to use the appropriate amount for your child – no more.
- Always supervise your child and make sure the hand sanitiser is rubbed into the hands until they are completely dry.
- Keep all bottles of hand sanitisers out of reach of children to prevent accidental ingestion.