Each of us can help stop the spread of COVID-19 disease by washing our hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds. This is recommended after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. If soap and water are not available, the CDC recommend that consumers use alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol.

The alcohol in hand sanitizer works best when you rub the sanitizer all over your hands, making sure to get between your fingers and the back of your hands. Do not wipe or rinse off the sanitizer before it is dry. Do not use hand sanitizer if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Wash your hands with soap and water first and then apply the sanitizer.

If you use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, please pay attention to the information below.

Hand Sanitizers Are Drugs

Hand sanitizers are regulated as over-the-counter 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. Children should use it only with adult supervision.

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. Drinking even a small amount of hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning in children. During this coronavirus pandemic, poison control centers have had an increase in calls about accidental ingestion of hand sanitizer, so it is important that adults monitor use.

Do not allow pets to swallow hand sanitizer. If you think your pet has eaten something potentially dangerous, call your vet or a pet poison control center right away.

Although many stores and pharmacies sell it, hand sanitizer might be hard to find during this public health emergency. The FDA doesn’t recommend that consumers make their own sanitizer. If made incorrectly, hand sanitizer can be ineffective or worse. For example, there have been reports of skin burns and irritations.

Adding alcohol to non-alcohol hand sanitizer is unlikely to result in an effective product. And using disinfectant sprays or wipes on your skin may cause skin and eye irritation. Disinfectant sprays and wipes are intended to clean surfaces, not people.

The FDA is helping increase the availability of hand sanitizers by working with companies and pharmacies to address this supply shortage. The FDA recently developed guidance documents for the temporary preparation of hand sanitizers by certain pharmacists and other companies during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Hand sanitizers are a convenient alternative when handwashing with soap and water isn’t possible. You can protect yourself and your family from coronavirus with simple hygiene.

Call your doctor if you experience a serious reaction to hand sanitizer. Health care professionals and patients 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.

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