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We certainly are using more hand sanitizers as a result of the seasonal flu and for basic germ control. Hand sanitizers are found in schools, daycares, offices and in most people’s homes, purses, and pockets. The Missouri Poison Center receives calls about hand sanitizers because people are aware of their potential poison risk, but are not sure ‘how much’ could be a problem. Media coverage and health information has drawn attention to the high concentration of alcohol in hand sanitizers. While hand sanitizers can be dangerous if swallowed, actual symptoms from their misuse are extremely rare.

  • Hand sanitizers are effective in killing germs and reducing illnesses when used according to the directions.
  • Some manufacturers are coming out with brightly colored and scented hand sanitizers. These attractive qualities could make the hand sanitizer more appealing to small children.
  • A lick or a taste of a hand sanitizer gel causes only mild symptoms, if any, at all.
  • Hand sanitizers taste bad and can result in a burning sensation, so typically most children will not swallow a large amount.
  • Hand sanitizers are often left on tables or counters, easily reached by children. Remember that the dispensers are not child-resistant and usually have an easy to use pump handle. Keep hand sanitizer out of reach of small children.
  • Supervise the use of hand sanitizers.
  • It is not true that children may get drunk from licking their hands after application.
  • In a normal healthy toddler, it would take 1-2 teaspoons, swallowed, to cause a problem.
  • Children are especially prone to the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, which may include drowsiness, coma, slowed breathing, and low blood sugar.
  • Common hand sanitizers contain 62 – 65% ethanol, which is the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages.
  • Older children or adults may attempt to abuse products containing ethanol – be watchful.

Proper use of a Hand Sanitizers

  • Apply a dime-sized amount to dry hands
  • Rub hands together until completely dry.
  • Always monitor use by children.

Call the Missouri Poison Center at 11-800-222-1222if a hand sanitizer is swallowed (or splashed in the eyes), or if you have any concerns.


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