A woman pumps hand sanitizer onto her outstretched hand.

Hand Sanitizers

Twistadmin Is This A Poison

Toxicity:  Risk for toxicity varies based on the amount ingested. Minimal exposures in young children have a low risk for toxicity.

Expected symptoms:  Most exposures involving young children consist of them taking a taste or lick of hand sanitizer gel. This can result in an unpleasant taste and a possible burning sensation in the mouth. Older children or adults misusing or abusing hand sanitizers can result in significant symptoms.

What to do:  Wipe out the child’s mouth with a wet cloth or rinse the mouth. Give your child a drink of water to help get the taste out of the mouth.

Hand sanitizers have a high percentage of alcohol as the active ingredient (usually ethyl or isopropyl alcohol, or a combination of both). The alcohol in the hand sanitizer can have the same effects as drinking an alcoholic beverage, but this is not likely in accidental taste ingestions. When applied to the hands, these sanitizers are effective in reducing illness by killing germs. Bottles of hand sanitizer are frequently scented with attractive fragrances, left out for convenience, and are not usually packaged in child-resistant containers. This makes them very attractive to curious children, leading to accidental tastes and licks of the gel. The use of hand sanitizer by children should be supervised by an adult; it is NOT TRUE that children can get drunk from licking their hands after application. In a healthy toddler, it would take much more than the dime-sized amount typically used to sanitize hands.

It is very common for a child to react strongly to the taste of the sanitizer, it may cause them to cough and gag. If you find that your child has licked hand sanitizer, do not panic. Take the bottle away from them, wipe out the mouth with a soft, wet cloth and give them some water to drink. After you have taken care of your child, immediately call the Missouri Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

IMPORTANT: Abuse of hand sanitizers for the high alcohol content is very different from a curious child licking the gel. If you know of an adult or teen abusing hand sanitizer, call the Missouri Poison Center. The poison center is open all day, every day for poisoning emergencies and questions.

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