Calls to the NSW Poisons Information Centre (NSW PIC) concerning hand sanitiser exposure incidents have increased since the onset of COVID-19.

In the first half of 2020, the NSW Poisons Information Centre (NSW PIC) helpline received 902 calls about hand sanitiser exposures, a 2.2-fold increase in the number of calls compared to the same period (January to June) in 2019.  During the peak months of March to May 2020, the number of calls almost tripled. 

Ninety-three per cent of the calls were due to accidental exposure, and the majority of calls were in relation to children under 14 years of age. More than half of these calls were for children between one and four years of age.  

Alcohol-based hand sanitiser is a handy and effective alternative when you cannot use soap and water to wash your hands. It’s important to use hand sanitiser safely and only on your hands. 
When using hand sanitiser, these safety tips are recommended: 

  • Store out of reach of children, anyone with learning or memory difficulties, or pets when not being used. 
  • Always supervise children and anyone with learning or memory difficulties while they use alcohol-based hand sanitiser to avoid accidental swallowing or getting it in the eyes. 
  • Store away from food preparation or food storage areas and keep it in its original container.  
  • If accidentally swallowed, call the 24-hour Poisons Information Centre immediately for advice on 13 11 26 and have the container of the swallowed product with you. 
  • Stop using if skin irritation or rash occurs. Seek medical advice if skin irritation persists or worsens.
  • Be aware that imported products may not be clearly labelled and could contain more toxic alcohols such as methanol which makes the product more dangerous. 
For more information about practising good hygiene and the safe use of hand sanitiser, visit the NSW Government website​.

Current as at: Thursday 22 October 2020
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW