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Prevention of Covid-19: In which cases is dry hand sanitizer unsafe for children?

Keeping hands clean, washing hands often with water and soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer is one of the best measures everyone needs to do right now to prevent the Covid-19 epidemic.

Currently, some apartments and public areas are equipped with hand sanitizer for people to use. Some parents also rushed to buy hand sanitizer for their children to bring to school to use.

But is hand sanitizer safe for children? And in what situations should it only be used?

Nước rửa tay khô không an toàn với trẻ trong những trường hợp nào?

The main ingredients of dry hand sanitizers are alcohol-based compounds that work to inactivate viruses and bacteria. Examples include ethanol, isopropanol, n-propanol, or a combination of two of the above compounds.

Alcohol acts on microorganisms, breaking their outer shell. For the new corona virus that causes the Covid-19 epidemic, these alcohol-based compounds will dissolve the virus's nuclear envelope, causing it to lose its spike receptors and be inactivated (cannot infect host cells). ).

Research shows that alcohol-based active ingredients are most effective at concentrations of ethanol between 60% and 85%, isopropanol between 60% and 80%, and n-propanol between 60% and 80%.

In addition, because alcohol can dry out hands, manufacturers often add some skin-moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and Fragrance to create scent. To kill some stubborn bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, some hand sanitizers will be added with antibacterial ingredients like benzalkonium chloride.

The above ingredients are all rated as safe in the threshold of use on the skin of the hands, even for children when licked. But you need to be absolutely careful not to let children drink hand sanitizer directly because it can cause alcohol or benzalkonium chloride poisoning.

The threshold of toxicity for benzalkonium chloride is 266 mg/kg. For the concentration of the common product, it is equivalent to 225 ml/kg. But alcohol poisoning can happen earlier, when children drink them.

Research shows that drinking 30 ml of alcohol can be fatal in young children. And scented alcohol-based hand sanitizers are often particularly appealing to them. In the US, only the first 4 months of 2019 recorded nearly 6,000 cases of children under 12 years old drinking hand sanitizer.

Symptoms of alcohol intoxication that parents need to be aware of include: nausea, confusion, vomiting, lethargy, drowsiness, respiratory failure. Ideally, hand sanitizer should only be used on children under adult supervision. And these products should be kept out of reach of children, if they are not aware that they cannot drink them.

In addition, experts also recommend that dry hand sanitizer cannot replace hand washing with soap and clean water in some cases. That is when there are obvious stains on the hands, visible to the naked eye.

For example, children often play dirty and have dirt and grease on their hands. At this time, washing hands with soap is the number one priority. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also ineffective if a child's hands are contaminated with mucus, such as phlegm.

Therefore, parents need to pay close attention to instructing their children in these cases to wash their hands with soap under running water.

As a final note, because hand sanitizers contain a high concentration of alcohol, do not place them near fire or high temperature areas as a precaution.

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