Health Canada is warning Canadians, particularly parents and guardians, about the risks of accidental ingestion among children from hand sanitizers packaged in formats that could appeal to children and be mistaken for food or beverages.
The federal agency says you should always read and follow the directions on product labels. Talk to your children about the safe use of hand sanitizers. The warning applies to all hand sanitizers in non-traditional packaging, including squeeze pouches commonly used for food and beverages.
Whether your child is learning from home or at school this fall, Health Canada is reminding Canadians, particularly parents and guardians, that hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of germs, including COVID-19. Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
When that is not an option, Health Canada recommends using an authorized hand sanitizer that has an alcohol concentration of at least 60%. All hand sanitizer products authorized for sale by Health Canada have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN) or Natural Product Number (NPN) on the label, and are listed on the List of Hand Sanitizers Authorized by Health Canada, which is updated regularly on the Health Canada web site.
Some hand sanitizers that may not fully meet Health Canada’s regulatory requirements and may not have a DIN or NPN on the label are being permitted for sale as an interim measure given the shortage of supply of hand sanitizers because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Check for these products by searching the list of Disinfectants and hand sanitizers accepted under COVID-19 interim measure.
However, certain hand sanitizers are being sold in packaging that could appeal to children, such as squeeze pouches that typically contain food or beverages. Parents and guardians should be particularly vigilant about these products because children may accidentally mistake them for edible products and consume them.
Health Canada recommends against using hand sanitizers sold in packaging that resembles food or beverage containers in settings in which direct adult supervision cannot be assured at all times, such as at school.
To avoid accidental ingestion, hand sanitizers should be stored away from, and out of sight of, children under six years of age. They should always be used with adult supervision. As with all health products, always read and follow the directions on the product label.
Never eat or drink hand sanitizers because ingesting even small amounts can be dangerous or fatal. Health Canada recently issued an advisory about the risk of poisoning from hand sanitizers sold in beverage containers.
Health Canada says it is continuing to monitor the situation. If a safety concern or non-compliance is identified, Health Canada will take action and inform Canadians.
What you should do
- Always read and follow the label directions on hand sanitizers.
- If you choose to send children to school with hand sanitizer, avoid products packaged in containers that resemble food or beverage containers to avoid possible confusion with edible products.
- Always supervise children when they use hand sanitizer.
- Store hand sanitizers out of the reach of children.
- Talk to your children about the safe use of hand sanitizers.
- Children should not use hand sanitizers containing technical-grade ethanol. Always check the label to ensure the product does not contain technical-grade ethanol.
- If hand sanitizer is swallowed, call a poison control centre or get medical help right away.
- Report any health product adverse events or complaints to Health Canada.
- To help limit the spread of COVID-19, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water are not available.