With the ongoing pandemic, using face masks and hand sanitisers have become mandatory in our everyday lives to protect ourselves from the virus. With our kids also exposed to the virus, we want to make sure we take every precautionary measure to keep them away from harm. Which includes ensuring their masks are secured, and a sanitiser slipped inside their backpacks. A lot of us might actually use sanitisers consistently to wash off all those germs.
However, hand sanitisers come with unexpected downsides on our kids’ health. A recent study has found that hand sanitisers can do some harm to our children’s eyes.
How Hand Sanitisers Can Harm Your Kid’s Eyes
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According to the study published in JAMA Opthalmology, excessive use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers amidst the pandemic has raised serious eye injuries among children.
Between 1 April and 24 August 2020, the French Poison Control Centre also claimed the cases for eye injuries in kids under the age of 18 caused by harmful chemicals in hand sanitisers were seven times higher than those of the previous year.
At the same period, 16 children in Paris were admitted to a pediatric ophthalmology hospital due to their eyes being splattered with hand sanitiser. There were even two cases that required surgery to transplant tissue into their corneas. The hospital cases were all in children under the age of 4 years old which researchers say it may be because dispensers are at eye level for young kids.
Researchers also suggested that the biggest risk to kids was dispensers installed in public places such as malls, schools, workplaces and public transportation. This was seen in 2020, where 63 cases of exposure occurred in a public place. Meanwhile, 2019 had no reports whatsoever.
Researchers explained that alcohol-based hand sanitisers are harmful due to their high ethanol concentration, which can kill cells in the cornea.
“Moreover, other irritant additives, including hydrogen peroxide, polyethylene glycol (to increase viscosity), perfumes, or essential oils, may increase the ABHS ocular toxicity,” the study reported.
Ways To Protect Your Child
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In a related study also published in JAMA Opthalmology by physicians in India, which looked into two cases of children who had eye injuries due to unintentional contact of hand sanitiser to their eyes, suggested the following preventive measures to keep kids safe from the hazards of sanitisers:
1. Instead of consistently using alcohol-based hand sanitisers, promote handwashing with soap and water.
2. Teach and train your child how to properly and safely use sanitisers.
3. For shops and malls, it would be better to have separate dispensers for children that fit their height (i.e. below face level).
4. Placing caution signs next to sanitiser dispensers.
Researchers also advised that young children should always be assisted by an adult while using alcohol-based hand sanitisers.
Better yet, it may be better to use alcohol-free hand sanitisers that are safe for both kids and adults to use.