Now that hand sanitizer is one of the primary ways we are protecting ourselves from viruses, especially in public, it’s natural that many parents are wondering whether it’s safe to use on their babies and children. While we are partial to less aggressive methods like simple hand washing and immune support, the use of hand sanitizer can seem unavoidable when out and about. In this blog, we are breaking down risks, benefits and alternatives for babies and for children.
In short, hand sanitizer is not recommended for babies under the age of one. And if you’re tempted to use alcohol-free hand sanitizer for your wee one, skip the cost, as it’s been found to be largely ineffective.
For children older than one: hand sanitizer can be used, but only when adhering to certain guidelines. It’s best to put a small, pea sized dab on the child’s hand, then support them in rubbing it in until their hands are completely dry. You should also try to help them avoid putting their hands in their mouth after using the sanitizer, as it has an incredibly high alcohol content. However, the Capital Poison Control Centre (NCPCC) says licking hands after the sanitizer has rubbed in shouldn’t be too risky. Something you can do to minimize the chance of them licking their hands is to use a fragrance-free hand sanitizer so they are not tempted by the scent.
It’s also essential to keep hand sanitizer out of a child’s reach, as it can be dangerous when consumed in larger quantities.
There are numerous ways to keep your child's hands clean without hand sanitizer. These strategies can also be helpful who would like to minimize hand sanitizer use in general.
Think of fun ways to wash your child’s hands. As you’ve likely heard, hand washing is one of the best ways to kill harmful bacteria and viruses. So, develop the habit of washing your baby’s hands, for at least 20-seconds, any time they touch something that might expose them to germs. We recommend a fragrance-free and natural, sudsing soap (plain castile soap works great for this). To make it more fun for them, make up a song to go along with the task. You can also give them a moment to play with the soap suds before washing them off. If you have the space and it makes sense for your family, you can give them a bowl full of sudsy water to play in as well while showing them and assisting them in rubbing their hands together to ensure a thorough clean. Just makes sure you have some towels nearby!
Avoid situations where your baby could touch a contaminated surface. Whenever possible, figure out ways to limit your baby’s exposure to public surfaces. For example, if you take them to the grocery store, try to avoid placing them in the shopping cart seat. Instead, you can wear them in a baby carrier, push them in their stroller, or use a portable car seat that you can place in the shopping cart. If this doesn't work for you, give the cart handles and seat a quick wipe down with your Eco Pea Co. baby wipes. Though they have not been shown to kill viruses and bacteria, they can be effective in removing these particles and other grime from surfaces.
Cover their hands when you’re out and about. When you know you’ll be somewhere where you won’t be able to avoid baby touching things people that don’t live in your household might have touched, cover their hands. When it’s chilly, go ahead and pop some mittens on them. In warmer weather, put some of their thinner socks on their hands. Then, take off the hand coverings and wash them when you’re in a trusted environment.
Use hand sanitizer on your own hands. Because you likely need to touch your baby a lot, in addition to washing your hands with soap and water as usual, you can feel comfortable about using hand sanitizer on your own hands. Make sure you use a product that’s at least 60% alcohol and that your hands are dry before touching your baby.
While all these precautions might initially seem like a hassle, they’ll likely come more naturally with time. Many of these strategies can also help your child learn good hygiene practices. So, even if it feels inconvenient to avoid hand sanitizer on your child, treat it like a learning experience in hand washing. When things are made fun and consistent, they become good habits that carry through their lifetime.