Dear Ms. Green Clean,
I’m sending my three-year old to preschool this year and want to prevent him from getting ill from all the viruses and bugs in that environment. It seems like hand sanitizers are everywhere, what is your opinion on sending him to school with a small bottle to use before snacks and lunchtime?
—Germ Worried in Minnesota
There is nothing like your child’s first school experience to test their immune system. This is also a great time to build your son’s immune system. The Center for Disease Control recommends hand washing before any sanitizing product use. That being said, hand washing must be done correctly to remove germs effectively.
I suggest teaching your child a short song, such as a nursery rhyme version or even the alphabet, and have him sing this as he washes with soap and water, lathering well, getting in between his fingers and working the lather to both sides of his hands before rinsing. After this, dry his hands well with a clean towel. This process alone will prevent most germ transfer. What are some concerns about hand sanitizers? To start, here is a short list:
• Children are naturally curious and using a hand pump or liquid gel dispenser may be fun to children and create overuse of product.
• Pretty colors and fragrances entice children, and with alcohol content of up to 65 percent in most sanitizers, concern for ingestion and related poisoning is of greater concern.
• Small children often put their hands in their mouths and ingestion can add up with repeated use of sanitizers.
• Since your skin is your largest organ, toxic ingredients can absorb into the bloodstream quickly. The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) has a lot to say about the ingredients in most hand sanitizers and knowing this information is crucial to your decision of whether to use or not to use these products. Most hand sanitizers on the market contain many of the same ingredients. Here is a partial list of some of the common ingredients that are of top concern.
- Ethyl Alcohol is used to kill bacteria and help absorption of other ingredients. This is moved into the bloodstream rapidly and is also very drying to the skin. Research on adults shows measurable amounts of alcohol in the bloodstream after use of large amounts. Similar research has not been done on children.
- Isopropyl Alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, is a petrochemical, a known neurotoxin, and drying to the skin.
- Glycerin is considered to be a skin irritant.
- Artificial fragrances are virtually unregulated in the United States and can be made up of a few dozen or a few hundred chemicals for one product. Phthalates are often used in artificial fragrances to keep the odor around longer, and are known endocrine disruptors, meaning they affect the sex hormones, especially in infants.
A few non-toxic options:
• In a reusable plastic baggie, pack a wet washcloth to which has been applied a bit of natural soap to wash your son’s hands before meals.
• Consider talking to the teacher about providing safer hand sanitizers such as Clean Well (www.cleanwelltoday.com) that are alcohol- and triclosan- free.
• Boost your child’s immune system by offering plenty of healthy, organic fruits and vegetables daily.
• Taking a daily probiotic will help replace good bacteria in your child’s system to fight off what bad bacteria he may come across.
Remember too, a bit of dirt is good for you, so dig in and enjoy this time of life. The mud pies are the best part.
Ms. Green Clean