Saturday, June 27, 2009

Are Hand Sanitizers Safe for Young Children?

In today's column I would like to share with you another safety alert for toddlers and preschool age children. This one is specifically about hand sanitizers, but more broadly about products such as mouthwash, hand lotions, and other common products in our homes that are "safe when used as directed".

An e-mail has been circulating about the dangers of hand sanitizers. Young children who ingested small quantities of the product from a single squirt into their hand have been poisoned and hospitalized. Hand sanitizers work because they use ethyl alcohol to kill germs. Hard liquor actually contains a lower percentage of alcohol than hand sanitizer. Some of the e-mails call for the banning of hand sanitizers. However, before throwing out this baby with the bathwater, parents should consider how they use and store other common products.

It is dangerous to ingest any household products that are not intended for human consumption. We know that all babies learn by putting things in their mouths. When old enough to imitate, toddlers copy our behavior. They see us putting clear and colored liquid in our mouths, so they do the same. Any time soaps, lotions, cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizers are kept where toddlers can get to them, they will. They are driven by their curiosity to learn and try everything they can. One of our many tasks is to keep the learning environment safe.

Do not lose sight of the fact that hand sanitizers are safe when used as directed. However, remember that the best way to prevent the spread of germs is by washing your hands. Many generations of children grew into healthy adults before hand sanitizer became popular. Could it be that we are relying on this product because we are not disciplined enough to wash our hands?

The decision as to whether or not to keep hand sanitizer in your home is a personal one. If you cannot keep this product out of reach of the children in your home and you are unable to supervise its use, you probably shouldn’t have it. If this is true, I would suggest there may be other substances you need to remove from your home as well.


First you get your hands wet

And you get some soap

Rub it all around

And then rinse off the soap

Turn the water off

And then you dry your hands

Put the paper towel

Right into the trash can.

Tune: Sing a Song of Sixpence

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

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