News

Home Safety

23 August 2021

Poisons

Using hand sanitiser has become a part of our everyday lives - it is important to understand the risk of accidental poisoning and how to keep your kids safe.  

Young children are curious and will often put things in their mouth. In the blink of an eye, kids can get themselves into dangerous situations as they do not recognise or understand the danger.  

Unintentional poisoning at home is a common cause of Emergency Department presentation and hospital admission in young children. The most common causes of poisoning-related hospitalisation of young children are over-the-counter medicines (such as paracetamol) and home cleaning products. Hand sanitiser is now a common item, not only in our home, but most places we visit. 

Hand sanitisers are alcohol based - to be effective, a minimum alcohol content of 60% is required, with some sanitisers containing up to 80% alcohol – making it dangerous to children if swallowed. Even a small amount can be harmful to young children and babies.  

Just like other potentially poisonous products, it is important to store hand sanitiser safely out of reach of children. They should only be used by young children when under the supervision of an adult.  

Parents and carers should be aware that some hand sanitiser products may contain more toxic alcohols such as methanol which may not always be clearly labelled. This hazard applies to some imported hand sanitisers and others that people make themselves.  

With the increasing popularity of personal small hand sanitisers, there is an increased risk of the containers looking and smelling like something a child would mistake for a treat. Parents and carers should be conscious of sanitisers packed or stored in containers that children might mistake for food or drink containers. 

Top tips for the safe use of hand sanitiser: 

  • Store hand sanitisers safely out of sight and out of reach of children. 
  • Always supervise children using hand sanitiser or use soap and water for at least 20 seconds to clean hands. 
  • Avoid products that are packaged in containers that children might mistake for food or drinks. 
  • If you think your child has swallowed hand sanitiser, regardless of the quantity, call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26. Have the child and the container with you.
     
Thank you to the Health Promotion Unit at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network for this important Health Update. For more information and tips on child health and safety, please visit  kidshealth.org.au.

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Sydney Children's Hospitals Foundation raises funds for Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick , The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Bear Cottage, the Newborn and Paediatric Emergency Transport Service (NETS NSW) and Kids Research