Along with pencils, erasers and dry erase markers, hand sanitizer has become a back-to-school shopping staple. In these days of bottom of the barrel school budgets, we often receive requests for supplies from our children’s teachers, and hand sanitizer is at the top of the list. Classrooms boast industrial sized pumps of this popular germ-fighting gel.
Hand sanitizer is a great alternative when soap and water isn’t available, but there are some things you should know about choosing the right sanitizer for your child.
What should you look for in a hand sanitizer?
First, avoid any products containing triclosan. Triclosan is an ingredient targeted at preventing bacteria growth and is often found in many personal hygiene products including sanitizing gels, antibacterial soaps, body washes, toothpaste and even some cosmetics.
While previously thought to be safe, more recent studies have proven triclosan to be an endocrine disruptor in animals. Because of these findings, many companies have reformulated their products without triclosan and even the FDA warns consumers about the risk associated with its use.
How do you know you're choosing the right type?
Next, know your child’s skin. What type of sanitizer you choose should largely be based on your child’s age and level of skin sensitivity. For those with very sensitive skin it is best to choose a sanitizer that is alcohol free. Alcohol can be drying and can irritate skin conditions such as eczema. Try instead a sanitizer using essential oils and enriched with skin protective ingredients like vitamin A and E.
Also, convenience is key. As with anything, the easier it is to use the more likely your child is to use it. Luckily, soap-free germ fighting products come in a variety of styles. Small portable gels, sprays, and even individual hand sanitizer wipes are widely available. Whatever fits neatly into your child’s backpack and desk is what they will be inclined to use.
What else can be done to protect your child?
Lastly, stress the importance of cleanliness to your children. Help them understand the difference between the dirt they can see on their hands after recess and the invisible germs lurking around them that cause colds and flus.
Explain to them how germs linger in places like door handles, desktops, and on communal supplies like crayons and markers. Encourage them to get in the habit of using their hand sanitizer after any time they have switched centers or used group supplies.
Even though a bout of the common cold is a routine part of childhood, you don’t want your child catching every virus that sweeps through their school. With these practices and a bit of diligence, you can help prevent the passing of viruses and reduce the incidence of illness in your own home, too.