The number of children being poisoned after ingesting hand sanitizer has risen since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Children are ingesting this gel, usually on accident and getting very sick. Kids are attracted to the brightness of the sanitizers that sometimes smell fruity or taste like candy. But the truth is, this modern way of hand-washing can be poisonous.

Parents and caregivers of small children must treat hand sanitizers like other harmful chemicals. They should keep them high in cabinets or behind child-proof locks. 

Hand Sanitizer Facts

  • In 2020, there were approximately 20,000 reported poisonous exposures to hand sanitizer among children under 6 years old, a 40% increase from 2019. 
  • In January 2021, there were nearly 34% more reported hand sanitizer poisonous exposures among children under 6 compared to the year before. 
  • Hand sanitizer contains 60 – 95% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol.
  • Often times, hand sanitizers smell good and are often brightly colored, which attracts children.
  • Symptoms of hand sanitizer poisoning include vomiting and stomach pain.
  • Serious symptoms include seizures, organ damage and death.

Tips for Parents and Caregivers

  • If you think a child has ingested hand sanitizer, call the poison control hotline 800-222-1222.
  • If a child is already showing serious symptoms (i.e. seizures) – call 911 immediately.
  • Keep hand sanitizers out of reach of children!
  • Use soap and water for hand washing whenever possible.


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