Hand Sanitizer Safety

Photo of a woman using a gel pump, showing that hand sanitizer safety is important

Have you thought much about hand sanitizer safety? Many hand sanitizers come in brightly colored bottles, can be laced with glitter, and smell like food or candy. This type of packaging makes them very tempting to young children. While a child who licks a tiny amount of hand sanitizer off of his or her hands is unlikely to become sick, a child ingesting any more than a taste of hand sanitizer could be at risk for alcohol poisoning.

The amount of alcohol in hand sanitizer ranges from 40% to 95%. Most hand sanitizer products contain over 60% ethyl alcohol, a stronger alcohol concentration than most hard liquors. By comparison, wine and beer contain about 10-15% and 5-10% alcohol, respectively. Even a small amount of alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning in children. Alcohol poisoning can cause confusion, vomiting and drowsiness, and in severe cases, respiratory arrest and death.

In the last 12 months, poison centers managed 15,941 exposure cases about hand sanitizer in children 12 years and younger.


Prevention Tips

  • Hand sanitizers should be kept out of reach of children at all times, and used only with adult supervision.
  • When using hand sanitizer on yourself or others, apply a dime-sized amount to dry hands and rub hands together until completely dry.
  • If you suspect your child has ingested hand sanitizer, call Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to develop .


For the Media

Please cite this hand sanitizer safety data as “National Poison Data System, America’s Poison Centers.” Any and all print, digital, social, or visual media using this data must include the following: “You can reach your local poison center by calling Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222. To save the number in your mobile phone, text POISON to (301) 597-7137.” Email Media@PoisonCenters.org or call 703-894-1863 for more information, questions, or to submit request data.



For more information on preventing exposures to hand sanitizers, read this factsheet on hand sanitizers from the Upstate New York Poison Center.

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