Parents have been asking me to give them a hand in understanding the risks and benefits of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. This week, let me try to hand off some information on this topic. Hand sanitizers are extremely effective in controlling the spread of germs and infections, and they are especially useful in schools and health care facilities. They have been found to reduce the spread of the germs that cause colds, stomach viruses, and diarrhea, and theyve been shown to reduce absentee rates in schools. However, hand sanitizers can contain up to 90% ethanol, which is 180 proof alcohol certainly enough to cause intoxication in children if taken in large amounts. The good news is that hand sanitizers are very safe if used in the correct amount and manner. The amount a child would lick from their hands would not be enough to cause intoxication. Older children, even if curious, will likely not drink enough of it to cause problems, due to the bad taste and the fact that it causes irritation to the inside of the mouth. Over the past three years, though, more than 28,000 reports of children ingesting hand sanitizer were phoned in to regional poison centers. Eighty percent of those calls involved children under age six. My best advice is to keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer out of the reach of children, and be sure to supervise its use by dispensing it for your children yourself. Dont let them do it themselves. Also, make sure you never transfer a hand sanitizer product into an unmarked container. If you still have concerns, dont forget about the old favorite soap and water. Just make sure your child washes for at least 15 seconds, lathering and scrubbing between the fingers, under fingernails, on both sides of the hands, and on the wrists. Also, dont use the same cloth or hand towel for everyones hands, or germs will spread. If you have further concerns about these products, you can always call the New England Regional Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for advice. Hopefully tips like this will clean up any concerns you have when it comes to knowing more about the minimal risks associated with alcohol-based hand sanitizers.