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'Treat hand sanitisers like any other poisonous substance', expert advises parents

Can children be poisoned by hand sanitisers? Source: Getty/Flavia Morlachetti

Since hand sanitisers have become omnipresent in almost every household during the coronavirus pandemic, there are reports of children being accidentally poisoned by consuming it. Dr Kamal Prakash Singh talks about the dangers of such consumption and discusses ways of keeping children safe while continuing to take steps to prevent COVID-19.

Among the most important recommendations for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is to maintain good hygiene, which includes washing hands or sanitising them frequently. 

As a result, many households stock hand sanitisers as a matter of routine now, and a recent report found that calls to the Poison Information Centre have increased manifold during the coronavirus pandemic, seeking information about accidental consumption of the sanitising liquid.

Sydney-based general practitioner Dr Kamal Parkash Singh says 'Hand sanitisers should be treated like any other poisonous substance, in case of accidental consumption.'


Highlights:

  • The alcohol quantity in some hand sanitisers could be as high as 80% and consumption can cause poisoning
  • Calls to Poisons Information Centre have increased manifold during COVID-19 pandemic
  • Parents should call 13 11 26 if their child accidentally consumes hand sanitiser; if it's an emergency call 000.

He explains, ‘Alcohol is the major component in most hand sanitisers. To make it work most effectively, it contains a very high concentration of alcohol - much higher than alcoholic drinks sold in retail stores.’

‘Alcohol quantity in some hand sanitisers can be as high as 80 percent. The key difference between drinking alcohol and consuming hand sanitiser is that the latter contains a much higher concentration of alcohol’.

Thus, accidental consumption of hand sanitiser liquid by children, is a cause of concern.

Dr Singh told SBS Punjabi, ‘The use of sanitiser on our hands is mostly safe. If you rub the sanitiser into your hands for around 30 seconds, the excess alcohol automatically evaporates’.

‘So if you touch your food after that, there won’t be any trace of alcohol left on your hands, or any chance of poisoning’.

He says a single squirt of hand sanitizer pulls out 2 to 2.5 ml of sanitiser and this amount isn’t enough to have any toxic effect.

'But if you have children in the house, then you must take the same precautions as you would with other poisonous substances.

Sanitiser
Dr Singh recommends using pump action sanitiser bottles rather than screw top ones, so that only a limited amount squirts out at one time
Getty Images

‘Keep sanitisers out of reach of children. Try to use sanitisers with a pump-action on the top rather than with a screw cap that can be taken off, so only a limited amount comes out in one squirt’, advises Dr Singh.

‘Adults should provide hand sanitisers to children and train them on how to use it properly. Keep sanitisers out of easy reach of children so that they can’t open the cap and consume it in a large quantity ’.

He adds, ' You must contact poison hotline on 13 11 26 in case the sanitiser liquid is consumed by a child. They will ask you basic questions about the nature and concentration of sanitiser and will eventually guide you on the next actions to be taken. This hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.'

‘If your child is unwell after consuming it, immediately call 000’.

Dr Singh advises further that,‘Generally, it is a good practice to alternate using hand sanitiser and washing hands with soap. This is good for your skin too.’

Click on the player at the top of the page to listen to this feature in Punjabi.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.
If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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