Disinfectant Safety During the Pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in numerous ways – including how we approach routine tasks like disinfecting common surfaces in our homes, how often we wash or sanitize our hands, and the number of questions we have about children and disinfectant safety.

As the pandemic has forced families and children to spend more time at home, the number of accidental poison exposures has increased, according to the US Poison Control Centers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As we observe National Poison Awareness week, here are answers to some frequently-asked questions around disinfectant safety.

Q: Is it safe to use hand sanitizer on my child?

A: Hand-washing with soap and water is the best way to remove germs from hands, but when soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be applied to children’s hands by an adult. Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, and closely supervise your child to ensure proper use and prevent swallowing. Always store hand sanitizer up, away and out-of-sight after each use.

Q: My baby licked my wet hands after I applied hand sanitizer. What should I do?

A: Contact poison control at 1-800-222-1222 if a child has licked or swallowed hand sanitizer. Swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning. A poison specialist will provide emergency treatment advice based on your child’s age, size and the product consumed.

Q: I ran out of hand sanitizer, why can’t I wipe my child’s hands with disinfectant wipes?

A: Disinfectant wipes should only be used on the surfaces listed on the product’s label. They are not designed to be effective on skin and can increase health risks if used in this way. Children can be especially sensitive to chemicals found in these products, so it is important to always wash your hands after each use.

Q: I sprayed a disinfectant on my hands, what do I do now?

A: Disinfectants are not hand sanitizers and should not be used on human skin. Follow the first aid instructions on the product’s label. Thoroughly rinse or wash the skin as soon as possible. If you are experiencing symptoms, call the Poison Center at 800-222-1222.

Q: How often should I be disinfecting “high touch” surfaces?

A: Always follow the instructions on the label of the product you are using, including reapplication instructions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cleaning surfaces with soap and water first, and then disinfecting.

Q: Is it safe to have my child help clean/disinfect our home?

A: Young children are at a high risk for poisonings from cleaning products, so it is best to leave the cleaning to adults. Children imitate behavior and will want to assist you in chores, so it’s a good idea to give them tasks that do not involve cleaning, such as organizing toys or folding their clothes.

Q: How can I keep my child safe while I’m cleaning?

A: Practicing safe cleaning is an important part of poison awareness and prevention. Never leave cleaning products unattended, and avoid transferring them to water bottles or other containers. When you are finished cleaning, always store cleaning products up, away, and out of the reach of children.