Can I Use Hand Sanitizer on My Baby?
When the COVID-19 pandemic first started, hand sanitizer was one of the first commodities to go. It seemed like everywhere you went — from grocery stores to pharmacies — the shelves were cleared out of hand sani products. Even worse, online retailers like Amazon and Ebay had independent sellers shipping out hand sanitizer and other essential items at up to a 900% increase. Now, they’re facing legal repercussions for price gouging during a pandemic.
While some have taken advantage of the shortage of necessary supplies, many companies are contributing to the solution. A host of distilleries across the country have been using their reserves of alcohol to make hand sanitizer for their communities and beyond. Texas vodka brand Tito’s has donated hand sanitizer to frontline workers throughout the pandemic and is now extending distribution to other U.S. cities for free.
Why the voracious demand for hand sanitizer? Are the ingredients safe for everyday use? And is it something we should be using on our kids? Let’s talk through what you should be looking for, how you should be using it, and whether it’s safe for your little ones.
What Do The Experts Say?
Health organizations across the board recommend hand washing as the most effective way to disinfect your hands. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, washing your hands with plain soap and water for at least 20 seconds removes dirt, debris, and all manner of bacteria from your skin. Hand washing removes certain types of germs (like norovirus, Cryptosporidium, and Clostridioides difficile) plus toxic chemicals like lead too.
Hand sanitizer, on the other hand, kills germs on contact with the skin. With their alcohol-based ingredients, hand sanitizers dissolve the protective membranes around microbes. But hand sanitizer should not be a substitute for hand washing. And if your hands are covered in dirt, grease, or chemicals, hand sanitizer is not going to be able to clean your skin and kill all associated bacteria.
That said, everyone should be stocked up on hand sanitizer right now — and even when we’re not in a global pandemic. Why? Because you need to be able to disinfect during times when hand washing isn’t an option. And this happens more than you might think… like during trips to the grocery store or the gas station, on hikes or camping trips, at the dog park. The truth is there are lots of times we simply don’t have access to a hand washing station.
What’s the Ideal Alcohol Content in Hand Sani?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance recommends using hand sanitizer with alcohol content of at least 60% to ensure you’re killing those lingering germs. Do not use hand sanitizers with an active ingredient of benzalkonium chloride, as this chemical is not as effective at killing bacteria as ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. Use hand sanitizer as soon as you get in your car after a public outing, and frequently throughout a visit to the hospital or nursing home, until you’re able to wash your hands. Hand sani is a stopgap solution for activities on the go, but again, it shouldn't ever fully replace hand washing.
Use enough hand sanitizer to cover your hands completely — now is not the time to skimp on product! Rub your hands together to coat them in the hand sani and allow them to dry. Make sure you don’t wipe your hands off after using it. Experts say that this common removal of the product before it’s dry is the #1 way that hand sanitizer becomes less effective.
Is It Safe to Use Hand Sanitizer on Babies?
According to the FDA, hand sanitizer is absolutely safe to use on children, even those under 6 years old, when used appropriately and with supervision. Most schools, playgrounds, and daycare centers are putting some type of hand sanitizer system in place this year, if they weren’t already. The biggest issue with children and hand sanitizer is not the application — it’s accidental ingestion. During the height of the pandemic in March, calls to Poison Control increased by 79% due to unintentional ingestion in kids under 5.
Here are the three rules that you should always (always, always!) follow when using hand sanitizer on children:
- Find a hand sanitizer that has an active ingredient of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol, with at least 60% concentration.
- Apply the hand sanitizer to your child and supervise as they rub their hands together. Keep watch until the product is dry, to make sure they don’t put their hands in their mouths or wipe them on their clothes.
- Store hand sanitizer out of reach of children, ideally in a locked cabinet.
Finding the Right Product
When it comes to hand sanitizer products, there are a few common complaints. For one, the alcohol smell can sometimes be overpowering and very unpleasant for those with sensitive noses. Second, hand sani often dries out the skin, leaving patchy spots and cracks on the knuckles and fingers. As winter approaches, this second issue will likely worsen. The more gentle and natural the ingredients — while still containing the necessary levels of alcohol disinfectant — the better.
Finding the right product can be difficult, and kids can be particularly finicky with scents and textures. That said, do not attempt to make your own hand sanitizer! Experts say that homemade hand sani is not as effective, and may even be dangerous for use. Additionally, some hand sanitizers that are advertised to be alcohol-based have been found to actually contain methanol or 1-propanol. These are toxic ingredients responsible for a sharp uptick in recent contamination rates, with severe and even fatal side effects.
So stay clean, but also stay safe. Parasol has just launched a natural hand sanitizer with a sweet floral scent. Our plant-based formula contains Vitamin E, aloe, and other plant extract to soften the skin and keep it moisturized. The active ingredient of 62% ethyl alcohol kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria and doesn’t leave a sticky residue. It’s cruelty-free, dermatologist-tested, and safe for children (under supervision.) Ta-da! A hand sanitizer you can use on yourself and the kids all day long. We’d love to hear how you like it — drop us a review or reach out with a question. We’re here for you, parents, and we’re always evolving our product lines to meet your current needs.