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Sanitizer FAQ

Is hand sanitizer effective against COVID-19?
The best way to prevent the spread of infections and decrease the risk of getting sick is by washing your hands with plain soap and water, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is essential, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose. If soap and water are not available, the CDC recommends consumers use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Should I be using antibacterial soap to wash my hands?
The best way to prevent the spread of infections and decrease the risk of getting sick is by washing your hands with plain soap and water. There is currently no evidence that consumer antiseptic wash products (also known as antibacterial soaps) are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients could do more harm than good in the long-term and more research is needed.
Where can I buy hand sanitizer? If I can’t find it in the store, can I make my own?
Many retail stores and pharmacies sell hand sanitizers. However, many stores have run out of hand sanitizers and they may be difficult to find. To help increase the availability of hand sanitizers, FDA has issued guidance for the temporary preparation of alcohol-based hand sanitizers by some companies and pharmacies during the public health emergency posed by COVID-19. The FDA recommends that consumers do not make their own hand sanitizer. If made incorrectly, hand sanitizer can be ineffective, and there have been reports of skin burns from homemade hand sanitizer. The agency lacks verifiable information on the methods being used to prepare hand sanitizer at home and whether they are safe for use on human skin.
Where should hand sanitizer be stored?
Hand sanitizer should be stored out of reach, and sight, of children. It should not be stored above 105°F (for example, it should not be stored in a car during the summer months).
Is the FDA taking measures to increase the supply of hand sanitizers?
Yes. FDA has recently developed multiple guidance documents for the temporary preparation of hand sanitizers by pharmacies and other companies during the public health emergency posed by COVID-19.
What do I do if I get a rash or other reaction to hand sanitizer?
Call your doctor if you experience a serious reaction to hand sanitizer. FDA encourages consumers and health care professionals to report adverse events experienced with the use of hand sanitizers to FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program.
Is hand sanitizer dangerous for children?
For children under six years of age, hand sanitizer should be used with adult supervision. When used according to the directions on the Drug Facts Label, hand sanitizer is not dangerous for children. Hand sanitizer is dangerous when ingested by children. Drinking only a small amount of hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning in children. However, there is no need to be concerned if your children eat with or lick their hands after using hand sanitizer. It is also important to keep the product out of the eyes.
What should you do if your child ingests hand sanitizer?
If your child ingests hand sanitizer, call poison control or a medical professional immediately.
If I add alcohol to non-alcohol hand sanitizer, will this be better to prevent COVID-19?
No. Addition of alcohol to an existing non-alcohol hand sanitizer is unlikely to result in an effective product.
Does the FDA regulate all hand sanitizers? Do hand sanitizers come with product information on their labeling?
Hand sanitizers are over the counter (OTC) drugs regulated by FDA. Hand sanitizers that meet FDA’s OTC drug review conditions or that are manufactured under the conditions in FDA’s temporary policy will include a “Drug Facts” label similar to the ones found at the end of the guidance: Temporary Policy for Preparation of Certain Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency (COVID-19). Consumers should assure they are following the warnings and precautions described on this label, particularly regarding use in children. The Drug Facts label will also describe the ingredients in the product.
Do hand sanitizers have an expiration date? Are they still effective after the expiration date?
OTC drug products generally must list an expiration date unless they have data showing that they are stable for more than 3 years. FDA does not have information on the stability or effectiveness of drug products past their expiration date. Hand sanitizer produced under the temporary policies for hand sanitizer production and compounding may not have an expiration date listed because they are expected to be used during this public health emergency.
What are denaturants and why are they added to hand sanitizer?
Denaturants are sometimes added to alcohol to make it less appealing to ingest. Denatured alcohol is used in hand sanitizer to deter children from unintentional ingestion – the denatured alcohol makes the hand sanitizer taste bad so children will not want to continue once they have had a taste. There are a number of adverse events every year resulting from intentional or unintentional ingestion of hand sanitizer, which is a particular concern for young children.
What is the risk of using a hand sanitizer that contains methanol (wood alcohol)?
The FDA is warning consumers and health care professionals about hand sanitizers that contain methanol, also known as wood alcohol, because it is a dangerous and toxic substance. Methanol can cause serious side effects when absorbed through the skin and can cause blindness or death when swallowed. Do not use any products on this list of hand sanitizers with potential methanol contamination, and continue checking this list often as it is being updated daily. Check your hand sanitizer products to see if they are on this list and dispose of them immediately if they are. Most hand sanitizers found to contain methanol do not list it as an ingredient on the label (since it is not an acceptable ingredient in the product), so it’s important to check the FDA’s list to see if the company or product is included. Visit FDA Updates on Hand Sanitizers with Methanol for more information.
What should people do that have been exposed to hand sanitizer with potential methanol contamination?
Methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death. Although people using these products on their hands are at risk for methanol poisoning, young children who accidentally swallow these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute are most at risk. People who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate medical treatment for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning.
How does COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes. The CDC has additional information on how COVID-19 spreads.
If I vape tobacco or nicotine, does this help preventing COVID-19?
E-cigarette use can expose the lungs to toxic chemicals, but whether those exposures increase the risk of COVID-19 or the severity of COVID-19 outcomes is not known. However, many e-cigarette users are current or former smokers, and cigarette smoking increases the risk of respiratory infections, including pneumonia.