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Hand Sanitizer and Kids: Is it Safe?

Updated: Feb 12, 2019


Photo used with permission from andres chaparro via Pexels

Most parents know that little ones are prone to sickness, especially if they spend time in a day care. Between the coughing, sneezing, and putting just about anything imaginable in their mouths, it can be a battle to keep them well. Most parents opt for hand washing to help prevent sickness and it’s true that hand washing is a proven way to reduce sickness. But a new study published in the October 2018 issue of Pediatrics actually shows that hand sanitizers are a more effective way to prevent diseases in children in the day care setting.


The study looked at several day care centers throughout Almeria, Spain and created groups of children ages 0-3. These 3 groups consisted of children that followed the day car center’s typical hand washing routine, a group that washed their hands with soap and water, and a group that used hand sanitizer. They found that the group that used soap and water had a 21% higher chance of a respiratory infection than the group that used hand sanitizer. They also tracked the prescription of antibiotics and found that the children who used hand sanitizer were 31% less likely to be prescribed antibiotics than the group of children who washed their hands with soap and water.


Imagine something as easy as a quick squirt of hand sanitizer could greatly reduce your child’s risk of getting sick. But is hand sanitizer safe for use with children? Yes, if used correctly.


The biggest concern around young children is often the fear that they will ingest it accidentally. However, this is often the result of the sanitizer being designed to smell like fruit. You can read more about that here. While you should keep any sanitizer out of the reach out children, consider using a sanitizer that uses a denatured ethyl alcohol which has an intentionally bitter taste. This can dissuade a child from accidentally ingesting it even if they do get their hands on some. Also be sure to keep any hand sanitizer out of reach out children at all times. You’ll want to make sure that you rub the hand sanitizer into your child’s hands until they are dry. If your child’s hands are still wet the sanitizer likely hasn’t had enough time to work or you’ve used too much product.


Now that’s not to say you should skip hand washing all together. The CDC still says soap and water is more effective than hand sanitizer at removing certain types of germs and you should always wash your hands if they are visibly dirty or soiled. But think about keeping a travel sized portion of hand sanitizer around to use, especially from April to November when respiratory virus season is at its height.


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