Alcohol Based Sanitizers: Know the Dangers for Young Children

As on date, COVID-19 has affected over 150000 people across more than 100 countries of the world. While the medical jury is still out on the spread and impact of coronavirus; there is unanimity that the topmost factor in combating the spread of coronavirus (as in other germs) and mitigating one’s risk of catching it is to wash hands properly and often with soap and water. People are encouraged to wash their hands before meals, before cooking/ handling food, after using the toilet, after sneezing or coughing, after disposing soiled tissues and masks and after handling raw meat.

Since water and soap may not be readily available at all times, sanitizing hands with sanitizers containing at least 70% alcohol is recommended. Available in pocket sized bottles, sanitizers can be easily carried around for hygiene on the go. Though effective in killing germs, over use of alcohol based sanitizers and soaps can cause skin irritation, dryness and redness. Alcohol based sanitizers can also be unsuitable for people with eczema, sensitive skin and for young children.

Dangers of Alcohol Poisoning in Children

While dealing with alcohol based products, skin sensitivity is not the only worrying factor. The presence of high percentage of alcohol in sanitizers can be very dangerous in young children in case of unsupervised use or misuse of the product. Young children often squeeze copious amounts of the sanitizers onto their hands instead of a tiny amount. They also do not have the patience to let the sanitizer completely dry off. Very often, the children then touch their face- eyes, mouth or nose- with hands still wet with sanitizer- triggering skin or oral irritation.

In order for sanitizers to be attractive to young children, these are often laced with glitter, color and artificial fragrance. Small children may like the smell or accidentally lick it. Unsupervised, the children might be tempted to try out or taste the sanitizer which can be dangerous for their small bodies and immature constitution. Most sanitizers contain between 60% to 95% of alcohol, which if ingested-even in small quantities, is equivalent to taking few shots of hard liquor. Children can be exposed to alcohol poisoning which may cause the following :

  • Sleepiness/ drowsiness
  • Staggering and disorientation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Eye irritation and redness
  • Stomach pain
  • Coughing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Bluish color
  • In severe cases, it can also also lead to seizures and coma

Sanitizers are also laced with other toxic chemicals such as paraben, phthalates and triclosan which are said to compromise a child’s immunity and create antibiotic resistance, making him or her more susceptible to allergies and infections, causing more harm than benefit in the long run.

Closeup of hands washing with sanitize solution

Use Alcohol Based Sanitizers With Caution

Since alcohol based sanitizers are effective in killing germs, one may use them for children but only with due care and caution. Older children must be instructed on proper use and storage, so they can safely use in schools and public places. For younger children use of alcohol based sanitizers should be strictly under adult supervision.

Children should be instructed on the importance of using the right quantity- a dime sized amount is enough at one time. Also, they must be taught to rub their hand together and allow the sanitizer to completely dry before they touch their faces. They must be counseled on dangers of accidental or deliberate ingestion of alcohol based sanitizers and other products.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents and teachers use the same caution with hand sanitizer as with any other possibly poisonous item.

Consider Alternatives to Alcohol Based Sanitizers

For younger children, parents may consider safer alternatives to alcohol based sanitizers such as natural, essential oil based sanitizers such as Twinkle 3 in 1 Hand + Body Sanitizer. The Twinkle 3 in 1 Hand + Body Sanitizer is prepared with essential oils such as Whitewood, Geranium and Tea Tree Oils that are proven to have antiviral, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Being alcohol-free, the sanitizer is non toxic and safe to be used on young children. To buy Twinkle products, visit

Also read an informative article about how essential oils can ward off infections here.