The Best Hand Sanitizer for Children | Muse Health

Children     Baby     Hand Sanitizer     Safe     Definition

One of the worst aspects of living during a global pandemic is the constant worry about whether your children are safe. Although many parents teach children the importance of a hand wash with antibacterial soap and water, germs seem to catch people off guard at the most inopportune times. And while soap and water is the best way to keep hands clean, there will be times when it is not available.

Alcohol based hand sanitizer is considered to be an excellent disinfectant and alternative for times when soap and water are not available. However, a major concern for parents is knowing whether hand sanitizer is a viable option for young children. For children under the age of six years old, there is always the possibility that something can go wrong. That being said, not all hand sanitizers are created equal and with a little bit of research, you can find products that will easily fit in your diaper bag, creating a safer environment.

Smiling toddler girl putting on hand sanitizer

Is Hand sanitizer safe for toddlers?

The safety of hand sanitizer when it comes to toddlers has long been a hotly contested topic. There are some parental groups who disagree with using alcohol based substances on young children while others think that it is a necessity in the fight to keep their families safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concludes that hand sanitizer should only be given to toddlers and children when it is directly applied to their hands by a parent or legal guardian. Especially when dealing with toddlers, parents and legal guardians need to be on full alert. Ethyl alcohol, which is an ingredient that is used in most effective hand sanitizers (like Purell) can be toxic if ingested. The poison control centers have stated that more than half of its reported cases for alcohol poisoning involve young children and hand sanitizer.

Most young children eat anything that they can get their hands on without considering the consequences. Some of the most severe side effects of hand sanitizer ingestion are vomiting and ocular (eye) irritation.  

A good rule of thumb is to check the bottle and see if you can find the word “denatured”. When a hand sanitizer is denatured, its formula has an added ingredient that makes it taste very bitter. Children tend to hate things that taste bitter, resulting in a decreased likelihood of ingestion.  

When hand sanitizer is not being used, it is advised to store bottles in high places that children cannot reach.

Close up of hands using hand sanitizer

Ingredients you’ll find in the best hand sanitizer for children

While the notion of a kid-friendly hand sanitizer may be debatable but there are certain ingredients that all of the best hand sanitizers have.  

Although it may seem like a contradiction, the best hand sanitizers contain at least 60% alcohol content. Backed by several studies and the CDC, 60 percent alcohol is the percentage number that allows alcohol to penetrate through a cell membrane. Alcohol poisoning is always a major worry when it comes to little children but the alternative of using alcohol free sanitizers is that those products are not nearly as effective at killing bacteria. As previously stated, making sure to monitor your children when using hand sanitizer ensures that accidents are avoided.

The type of alcohol present in formulations will most likely be isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol. Both are effective at killing germs.

Another ingredient that you’ll find in a great hand sanitizer is vitamin E. Alcohol has so many attributes that make it perfect for killing bacteria but one of its biggest detractions is that it dries hands.

Vitamin E helps offset the drying effects of alcohol by becoming a great moisturizer. Vitamin E has the ability to trap moisture, thus making it the perfect complement to alcohol. This ingredient is also used to give sanitizes a fragrance-free or unscented feel by combating the intense scent of alcohol.

A specific strand of vitamin E that is commonly used in hand sanitizers is tocopheryl acetate. Tocopheryl acetate promotes healthy skin by keeping it moisturized and wrinkle-free.

If you don’t find vitamin E in the ingredients list, another moisturizing element is glycerin. Commonly used in several skincare products, glycerin adds moisture to the skin for longer periods of time. It is also considered safe to use by FDA on all skin types, including acne-prone and sensitive skin. There is still debate over whether glycerin is hypoallergenic so if a reaction occurs, call a dermatologist.

Other commonly found ingredients are aloe vera and essential oils.

Adult woman putting hand sanitizer on baby's hands

Best practice for hand sanitizing and children

Now that you know what ingredients to look out for, it’s important to understand steps you can take to ensure the safety of your children. When it comes to hand sanitizer and young children, it is always better to steer on the side of caution.

Adult supervision

This may seem like a no brainer but it is still worth mentioning. Because young children are naturally curious about the world around them, if they see something in a bottle like hand sanitizer, they may feel compelled to try it. It is advised by the CDC to never let young children use sanitizer without an adult present. As a parent, control how much sanitizer your child uses and also when they use it. When your child has fully rubbed the solution into their hands, make sure to store the bottle in an area not easily accessible to your child. This could be a high shelf or inside of a drawer.

Use soap and water where available

Hand sanitizer is an incredibly effective way to keep your child safe. That being said, handwashing is still considered the safest and most effective hand hygiene option. With soap specifically created to kill germs and keep hands safe, it makes the process of cleaning your hands incredibly simple. Especially during times like the flu season and winter, children are very susceptible to illnesses. Soap and water mitigates the chances of a child transferring an illness to areas of the body like the mouth or eyes.

Although not always an option, if there is soap and water available, choose it over hand sanitizer. You could also use hand sanitizer to provide an extra degree of protection by using it after cleaning your hands and those of your child. In order to ensure the best cleaning, make sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

Amount of use

When it comes to the exact amount of hand sanitizer to use with children, there isn’t a concrete answer. However, there are recommendations to take into consideration. For an adult, all the hand sanitizer needed to sufficiently clean is a quarter sized amount.  

Since children are smaller, you have to adjust the amount to not overexpose the hands. For toddlers, you should aim for a nickel sized amount of sanitizer. With that amount, it should be more than enough to clean the front, back, and in between fingers of a young child. Although nothing will happen if you use more hand sanitizer, you want to be economical with the amount applied.

Always consider safety

Hand sanitizer has become a must-have item for families looking to stay safe during these uncertain times. When it comes to clean hands of toddlers and children, parents take every precaution to ensure their safety. Finding a hand sanitizer that is safe for kids can be a very valuable asset for families if they know how to use it. If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of using hand sanitizer, do research or ask a pediatrician. The safety of your children is always most important.