12 April 2020

NSW Health is reminding parents that alcohol-based hand sanitiser is dangerous if ingested, particularly for children. 

NSW Poisons Information Centre said while hand sanitiser is an important tool in stopping the spread of COVID-19, it has seen a spike in the number of calls due to hand sanitiser exposure incidents, mostly by babies and young children ingesting it at home. 

Genevieve Adamo, Senior Poisons Specialist from the NSW Poisons Information Centre said even a small amount can be harmful for young children and babies.

“Hand sanitiser products should be stored safely and out of reach of children. When they are used by young children it should be under the supervision of an adult. Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is also a safe and effective option to help combat COVID-19,” Ms Adamo said.

Consumers are reminded to be aware of imported products which may not be clearly labelled and may contain more toxic alcohols such as methanol that make the product more dangerous. Products may also be packaged in a range of container types, including beverage containers, which can increase the risk of accidental ingestion and poisoning.

Additionally, there have been reports of people making their own hand sanitiser, which may increase the risk of potential poisoning.

Most minor ingestions can be safely managed at home but telephone assessment is still important.

“Regardless of the quantity, people should always call the Poisons Information Centre for first aid and monitoring advice and should ensure they have the container of the ingested product with them,” Ms Adamo said.

“Calling the Poisons Information Centre first to see if you or your child needs to go to hospital may prevent unnecessary visits to the Emergency Department and will help to keep Emergency Departments free for emergencies. In the current climate, it also prevents people increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

Everyone can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by practising social distancing, thorough hand washing, cough etiquette and staying home if they’re unwell. Learn how to protect yourself and others.

For advice on possible poisoning, please contact the 24 hour Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.