We can help stop the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases by washing our hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds – especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing our nose. If soap and water are not available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol to help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
Rub the hand sanitizer all over your hands, making sure to get between your fingers and on the back of your hands. Do not wipe or rinse off the hand sanitizer before it dries. Do not use hand sanitizer if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy; wash your hands with soap and water instead.
If you use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, keep these safety tips in mind.
Hand Sanitizers Are Drugs
Hand sanitizers are regulated as over-the-counter (OTC, or nonprescription) drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If you use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, read and follow the Drug Facts label, particularly the warnings section.
Store hand sanitizer out of the reach of pets and children, and kids should use it only with adult supervision. Call your doctor or the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 if you have a serious reaction to hand sanitizer.
Also, remember these safety tips:
- Keep hand sanitizer out of your eyes.
- Use hand sanitizer in a well-ventilated area.
- Supervise children using hand sanitizer.
- Do not drink hand sanitizer. This is particularly important for young children, especially toddlers, who may be attracted by the pleasant smell or brightly colored bottles of hand sanitizer. Drinking even a small amount of hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning in children. (But there is no need to be concerned if your children eat with or lick their hands after using hand sanitizer.) Poison control centers have had an increase in calls about accidental ingestion of hand sanitizer, so it is important that adults monitor young children’s use.
- Beware of alcohol-based hand sanitizers that are packaged in containers that may appear as food or drinks, and of those that contain food flavors or fragrances.
- The FDA found hand sanitizers that contain food flavors or fragrances, such as chocolate or raspberry. Eating or drinking these products can cause serious injury or death.
- Do not use these products on your pets, and do not allow pets to swallow hand sanitizer. If you think your pet has eaten something potentially dangerous, call your veterinarian or a pet poison control center right away. The FDA offers advice and resources related to potentially dangerous items for your pet.
- Hand sanitizer is flammable. Keep hand sanitizer away from heat and flames. When using hand sanitizer, rub your hands until they feel completely dry before performing activities that may involve heat, sparks, static electricity, or open flames.
Check the FDA’s List of Hand Sanitizers Consumers Should Not Use
The FDA discovered serious safety concerns with some hand sanitizers during testing. This includes some hand sanitizers that:
- Are contaminated with potentially toxic types of alcohol.
- Do not contain enough active ingredient (ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol).
- Have labels containing false, misleading, or unproven claims.
Before you buy hand sanitizer or use hand sanitizer you have at home, check the FDA’s list of hand sanitizers consumers should not use at www.fda.gov/handsanitizerlist.
Health care professionals and consumers are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting program.