Posted by The Vigilant Mom on October 19, 2011
Flu season has begun. All of the pharmacies have signs up advertising flu vaccines and I will soon begin my annual internal debate about whether we should all get flu shots based on how “bad” of a flu season it looks like it will be. Flu season in our house also used to be known as The Season In Which The Children All Live Under A Thick, Shiny Coat Of Purell. But then I started reading up on hand sanitizers a bit, and thought maybe there is such thing as too much germ-killing power.
Don’t misunderstand: Germ-killing is a very effective way to stay healthy, especially during flu season, and hand sanitizers are a great way to germ-kill on the run. But parents should be cautious about hand sanitizing products because most of them contain a very high amount of alcohol. Most common hand sanitizers are actually about 62 percent ethyl alcohol — which is about 124 proof in grown-up alcohol terms — and there have been cases of children suffering alcohol or ethanol poisoning after ingesting even a somewhat small amount. Though these products come with the usual keep-away-from-children warnings, parents might be slow to view something that most people routinely carry in their purse or diaper bag as dangerous. But, really, it can be. Like cleaning supplies and medicines, Purell, Germ-X and all of the other hand sanitizers on the market should be kept where little hands can’t reach them. I know they smell bad and taste nasty, but that might not necessarily deter all children. Remember, we’re talking about a population that eats dirt and finds poop fascinating.
So what can parents do as we all brace for another cold and flu season? If it’s an option, try washing your child’s hands with soap and water instead of just squirting them with sanitizing gel. Also, I have started watering down our hand sanitizers quite a bit. This way my kids get a little germ-killing action, and I don’t have to worry too much if they put their hands in their mouths afterwards. If you prefer your sanitizer in all its full-power, germ-decimating glory, be sure that your kids’ hands are completely dry after you apply the gel. And if you notice any signs of alcohol poisoning like dizziness, vomiting, slurred speech, headache or stomach ache, contact the Poison Control Center immediately and seek medical attention.