Are hand sanitizers dangerous to us and our pets?

With the Covid protocols seeing hand sanitizers flying off the shelf of stores, we have to wonder what effect the germ killers they contain has on our health and our pets.  They are basically alcohol based and this can, in people, cause alcohol poisoning with symptoms in people of confusion, vomiting, drowsiness and even respiratory arrest an death. Hand sanitizer usage has also actually increased antimicrobial resistance increasing the change of contracting the disease. In June 2020 researchers reported over 9000 hand sanitizer exposure poisoning cases in children.

Some brands contain a toxic version of alcohol called methanol. Methanol, also called wood alcohol, can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested, the FDA warns. Symptoms include headache, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, loss of coordination, and a decreased level of consciousness and even death. The methanol has a direct toxic effect on the optic nerve, and ingestion can lead to blindness.

Another ingredient in many hand sanitizers is Triclosan, also found in soap. This ingredient is an endocrine disruptor and interferes with the thyroid hormone. Overuse of this ingredient leads to antibiotic resistance increasing susceptibility to infections. Recently Triclosan has been banned from most hand sanitizers, but not all and since EPA-approved products do not need to have their ingredients listed on product labels you may not know what toxin lies in hiding.

Handling pets after using hand sanitizers exposes them through their skin, and especially in cats where they will groom themselves to get rid of the substance. The FDA has stated there is no evidence that antibacterial products are more effective than regular soap and water. You could also substitute for therapeutic-grade essential oils but note that some essential oils are high in salicylates or phenol and these can be toxic to cats.

To protect your pets, when you get home, please keep your mask away from your pets until you wash it.  If you’ve been in an area of high potential exposure, change you clothes before letting your furry family member sit on your lap. Wash both your hands and your pets feet (if they have been in an area of exposure) with plain soap and water, reduce dust in your house (wet mop), and avoid toxic purchases (read labels). Our pets, especially cats, are susceptible to the virus especially because they groom themselves and can ingest the virus. If someone in your household is quarantined, make sure they stay away from the pets as well. Cats can shed the virus in their feces for a short time after infections so clean the litter box often and wear a mask while doing this. Double bag the soiled  litter, especially if it creates dust. Like people, pets need to keep their immune system on high alert so you may want to fortify with supplements.

If a family member has Covid, watch if your cat coughs or sneezes a lot and has trouble breathing. Then isolate them for 14 days and call the vet right away. They recover well with a little help from the vet. According to the CDC , there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to people. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.

*link to photo source and article on better hand sanitizer: 

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