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Are Hand Sanitizers Safe for Baby?

Infant baby girl crawling next to essential baby items such as hand sanitizers for baby, toys, baby bottle, breast milk, teething ring and pacifier. Isolated on white background and with copyspace.

As a parent, you want the best for your baby, and you want to do the best for your baby. Keeping your baby as clean and as germ-free as possible might be one of those things that you think is the best for you baby. You may consider hand sanitizers for baby as one of those ways to keep your baby clean and germ-free. The Baby Pibu team wants you to consider a few things before you begin adding hand sanitizer for your baby into the daily routine. Our babies like to put their hands and everything else in their mouth so let’s understand the safety of hand sanitizers for baby.

Risk of Alcohol Poisoning

Most hand sanitizers contain 40 to 95% of ethyl alcohol. Ethyl alcohol is excellent at being bactericidal, i.e. killing the bacteria. However, ethyl alcohol is the same alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. The American Association of Poison Control Centers annually reports exposures to hand sanitizers. Some of these exposures include alcohol poisoning. Reports of toddlers and children becoming intoxicated from eating hand sanitizer has increasingly occurred, and parents need to be aware of this. Alcohol poisoning is a real concern with hand sanitizers so be cautious of leaving the hand sanitizer around unguarded from your toddler and other young children who may be curious of its nice smell, color or glitter.

Increased Antibiotic Resistance and Hormone Disruption

Other hand sanitizers are made of non-alcohol based chemicals such as the antibiotic-like triclosan. This ingredient is of concern because of it may be linked to both hormone disruption and increased antibiotic resistance. Triclosan has entered into our water sources and has been found in fish and bottlenose dolphins off the coasts of Florida and the Carolinas. Hormone disruption in animals by triclosan has been found and studied. Triclosan and other non-alcohol based ingredients used in hand sanitizers are not fully bactericidal. This allows for bacteria to mutate and become resistant to triclosan and other antibiotics. Since 2013, the FDA has highlighted these concerns and has not recommended that triclosan and other ingredients be used in OTC hand sanitizer products. If you need to have a hand sanitizer for your baby, consider having one with ethyl alcohol rather than triclosan.

Weakened immune system

Babies are born with an unsophisticated immune system, and it is one’s immune system that is important to fight off infections. Increased hand sanitizer use for baby may slow down the development of this immune system maturation. It is important for your baby to be exposed to the usual dirty environment so that the baby’s body can learn how to develop and adapt to these exposures.

Increased Allergies

What are the causes behind increased allergies? Research suggests that 70% is genetic but 30% is environmental. The environmental exposure can affect us in two ways. Epigenetics refers to a division of genetic research that studies the change of gene expression without change of the DNA code itself. Interactions between genes and the environment could lead to overreactions of the immune system. The Hygiene Hypothesis is another thought that we as a culture are too antiseptic, and that exposure to certain germs in childhood will strengthen the immune system. (Click here for more information:

Minimizing hand sanitizer use for your baby is one way to not be too clean as to not affect the development of your baby’s immune system.

Now, to finally answer the question of whether hand sanitizer is safe for your baby, the short answer is to be cautious. Consider hand washing with soap as a safer and better alternative to keeping you, your baby, and your family clean. If you have to use hand sanitizer, a few tips are recommended. Do not use more than a dime size amount of hand sanitizer for your baby or toddler when wiping their hands before meal time. Do not wipe your baby’s toys down with hand sanitizer. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer rather than triclosan-based one, but remember to not make the hand sanitizer so easily accessible to your baby or young children. Finally, it’s not bad to have a little “dirt” in your baby’s life.