I almost fell for the Purell hand sanitizer craze.
My baby was three months old at the time and I was taking her a lot on the bus and train and people always wanted to touch her. “Oh, isn’t she cute. Oh, she likes me!” says the man with the stench and the open bottle in the brown paper bag. She grabs for his bottle and settles for holding his stubby pointer-finger instead. As soon as she drops his finger, she shoves her whole fist in her mouth. I nearly swoon as I fight the urge to pull the emergency stop on the train car and run my precious little bundle to the nearest public restroom for a good hand washing.
Now that my precious bundle is a mobile terror, public restrooms fill me with the same dread. I can actually see the germs climbing onto her little hands as she grabs the underside of the sink, pounds on the door, and insists on pulling the toilet handle herself. And then, just like when she was little, she examines her own hand and sticks it into her mouth.
Soap and water, it works miracles for germ removal, but what about when it just isn’t possible to get to it fast enough? Well, why not use just a little Purell (or some other handy little alcohol-based cleanser)?
Then I got one of those scary emails from a friend who swears that her friend’s four-year old just got home from the hospital where she had alcohol poisoining from, you guessed it, Purell! A little research suggests this story is plausible. Hand sanitizer gels, lotions, and wipes must contain 60 to 95% Ethyl Alcohol to be effective. As little as one to two ounces of one of these products is enough to be fatal to a child. It’s not just ingesting these cleaners that we need to be concerned about because our children’s skins are not only sensitive but permeable. Alcohol and other chemicals are also absorbed through the skin.
What’s a concerned parent to do?
The cosmetics database helped give some insight to this question. Purell hand sanitizer received a high hazard rating, meaning that the product contains chemicals that are known or suspected to be hazardous to human health. Hand sanitizers in the safe zone include the EO hand sanitizer products, from sprays to wipes, and Healing-Scents Germs Goodbye hand sanitizer. I especially like the Clean Well products which are alcohol-free and safe for kids. You can also try experimenting with making your own cleaner using essential oils or other ingredients, but exercise caution as essential oils can also be dangerous to children.
Good hand washing (not with anti-bacterial soap though!) is still the most important practice in keeping your kids clean and safe.