It has been recommended numerous times that everyone uses an antibacterial hand gel, antibacterial soap, and other antibacterial products. But are they harmful to our children?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, when used correctly, plain soap and water will work perfectly well for basic handwashing. We know that hand washing is the number one way to help prevent illness and to stop it spreading.
Antibacterial soap will kill almost all bacteria, but that includes the good and bad bacteria on your skin. When we remove too much of the good bacteria, then the bad bacteria that survive can very easily multiply and overrun the surface.
An interesting statistic is that 19 ingredients were removed from hand wash products that were antibacterial because there was not enough evidence to deem them safe. The report has the following quote:
“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER).
Should I Use An Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer On My Child?
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not as effective as plain soap when there is visible dirt on the hands of your children. However, they do still kill microorganisms. There are a number of problems with alcohol-based hand sanitizers, though.
Hand sanitizers and antibacterial products that contain triclosan can trigger a painful eczema breakout. Increased contact with strong chemicals in antibacterial products can cause hand dermatitis in both adults and children.
The antiseptic products are formulated to disinfect the skin. Some manufacturers use fragrances and other ingredients to mask the alcohol smell. This can irritate the skin and dry it out.
Exposure to triclosan increases the likelihood of bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics.
Triclosan is also shown to weaken the human immune system, which means that they will become more susceptible to allergies.
What is Triclosan?
Triclosan is added to many of your daily usage products, and it is intended to reduce bacterial contamination. It can be found in antibacterial soaps, body washes, toothpaste, cosmetics, and more. It may also be found in toys, kitchenware, and clothing – these items are not regulated.
At the moment, the FDA does not have any evidence that triclosan in regular antibacterial soaps and body washes are any more beneficial than washing with regular soap and water. You can read more in their 5 Thing to Know About Triclosan report.
When purchasing hand sanitiser gel, make sure you read the ingredients. Purchase from a website that clearly states the ingredients (see here for an example).
Can my child use hand sanitizer with essential oils in it?
Essential oils are in our cleaning products, bath soaps, and beauty products because they are great. Essential oils are natural and provide us with a number of benefits depending on which essential oil you are using.
We know that lavender is great for getting a good night’s sleep and that peppermint can help us feel awake and pep us up. But what about essential oils in hand sanitizer?
Essential oils in hand sanitizer help combat germs, but also offer their therapeutic benefits too. Most conventional hand sanitizers have fake fragrances, parabens, and SLS too. They aren’t required to disclose this most of the time.
There are, however, hand sanitizers that are milder on the skin and have more natural ingredients – but still the same germ-killing power.
What Ingredients Should I Look For In Antibacterial Products And Hand Sanitizers?
There are a few ingredients that can make an impact in the antibacterial products you use on your child. Alcohol should be one of the main ingredients, as this is what will disinfect the germs and viruses on the skin. Aloe vera can help lessen the impact of hard alcohol on children’s hands. It is important that you read the ingredients and understand that it should be natural aloe vera gel.
Essential oils can help soften the skin, improve the smell, and restore lost moisture. They are supportive of the antibacterial properties and have antiviral, antiseptic, and antimicrobial properties.
A great addition is Vitamin E, which may be noted as Tocopheryl Acetate. Vitamin E softens and protects the skin, as well as helping to restore lost nutrients and moisture. Vitamin A is also an amazing ingredient to have in your antibacterial products as it is a protector of the skin. Vitamin A is a retinol derivative and stimulates the expression of immunity-related genes. These are effective for treating some inflammatory skin conditions and may protect against colonization by pathogenic bacteria (ScienceSignaling).
Can Essential Oils Cause Irritation To My Child?
You might wonder if essential oils are safe for your child and what you should do in the event of an allergic reaction. While essential oils are popular, when they aren’t used correctly, they can pose a risk to children.
Some essential oils can be used in cooking or in diffusers but shouldn’t be applied to the skin. Others should only be applied to the skin, and there are specific blends that are for consumption. Ensure that you understand how to use each type of essential oil and if there are any risks involved for children.
The sweet smell of the essential oils can be too tempting for children, and they can try to drink or lick the antibacterial products.
Natural products like apple cider vinegar and bicarbonate of soda have been shown to have antibacterial properties too. These can be used as household cleaners and skincare products too.
Small amounts in antibacterial products are usually safe for children to use. However, if there is any sign of irritation, then it is best to cease use immediately. If you have any concerns about the type of antibacterial products that they use, or if the ingredients are safe for children, then you can seek advice from your pediatrician.
When it comes to child-friendly antibacterial products, it is essential to pay attention to the ingredients and go for a higher quality product where possible. Adhere to FDA recommendations about specific ingredients like triclosan.