The Do’s and Don’ts of Hand Sanitizers for Children

Hand sanitizers are everywhere these days. If you have kids, chances are you’ve noticed that most public schools encourage the use of hand sanitizers to keep students healthy. 

Some parents choose to use hand sanitizers at home as well to help keep their children healthy and safe from germs. 

But how much do you really know about using hand sanitizers on children? Are they safe? Do they work? What do you need to know when using them? 

Here are some facts about hand sanitizers for children and guidelines for choosing the best product for your child and your family.

The best way to maintain hand hygiene for kids

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them.  However, hand sanitizer is a good alternative when soap and water are not available. 

Choose a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, which kills more than 99% of most bacteria within 15 seconds. 

The ingredients in hand sanitizer are very dangerous if ingested, so keep hand sanitizer away from very young children and always supervise younger children (age 5  and below) when they are using it.

What are the contents of hand sanitizers?

Most hand sanitizers contain alcohol, which is what kills germs. The amount of alcohol can vary by brand; while some have as little as 35% alcohol content, others have 60%. 

Some brands use ethyl or isopropyl alcohol.  Ethanol has a drying effect on the skin and can irritate sensitive skin types. Isopropanol may cause skin dryness because it evaporates quickly from the skin surface but causes less irritation than ethanol because it does not penetrate the outer layer of the skin as deeply.

Consequently, since more families began purchasing hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been getting many cases of unintended exposure among children. Many of these children are five years old or younger. Therefore, parents should remember the following dos and don’ts when it comes to kids and hand sanitizers. 

The do’s

There are a few things to keep in mind when using hand sanitizer with children. 

  • You should always read and follow the label directions for hand sanitizers.
  • Children should always be supervised when using hand sanitizer.
  • Teach your children how to use hand sanitizers safely.
  • If available, wash your hands rather than using hand sanitizer.
  • In case soap and water are not available, sanitize your hands with alcohol-based sanitizers.
  • Carefully read the ingredients to make sure the product does not contain ethanol. 

The Dont’s

While hand sanitizers are generally safe for children to use, there are some important don’ts to keep in mind. 

  • Don’t let young children use hand sanitizer unsupervised. 
  • Don’t use hand sanitizers on open wounds or cuts. 
  • Don’t ingest hand sanitizer, even if it is labeled as safe to do so. 
  • Don’t apply hand sanitizer to mucous membranes such as the eyes or nose. 
  • Don’t allow your child to inhale the fumes from a container of hand sanitizer. 
  • Don’t use alcoholic-based hand sanitizers on children under three years old due to their increased sensitivity to alcohol fumes. 
  • Last but not least, don’t use hand sanitizers with ethanol near an open flame or lit cigarettes.

Talk to your pediatrician for brand recommendations

Hand sanitizers are a great way to keep your child’s hands clean, but it’s important to choose the right product.  

Gel hand sanitizers are not recommended for children under six years old because they can cause burns. 

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers may also be harmful if used too often because they can dry out the skin and irritate the eyes. 

Check with your pediatrician about what type of hand sanitizer is best for your little one. 

Also, seeing a pediatrician if your child develops rashes or has trouble breathing is a good idea to get an assessment and recommendations for maintaining hand hygiene for your child.