Is Hand Sanitizer Harmful? How (and Why) To Talk To Your School About The Risks

We need to talk about the risks of hand sanitizer….

School started this week for us and when we got there, picked up our supply box (which fantastically we can order now and skip a Target run) I was shocked to find 2 full size bottles of hand sanitizer (per kid!).

I casually commented to the teacher, holding up a bottle, “still!?”

She chuckled, “kids, they just get so dirty.” 

I bit my tongue, I’d just met this new teacher, who seemed lovely BTW, and I wasn’t about to be that mom in the first 2 minutes.

So I let it go.

Even as my daughter next unpacked 2 packs of lemon scented Lysol wipes.

Agh, I hold it back.

I’m picking my battles.

And I’m starting with hand sanitizer.

Here’s why.

1. We’re no longer in a pandemic.

There was a time, yes, hand sanitizer was helpful. It did help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and in a school setting it was one of those things that helped schools stay open.

We’re not in the same place though and the benefits no longer outweigh the risks.

So many are unaware of the risks of hand sanitizer.

They’re long term.

And even the FDA acknowledges that even saying:

“Some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.” 

Antibacterial hand sanitizers are to the skin what antibiotics are to the gut. 

They decimate the microbiome, killing the good guys along with the bad, trillions of them, leaving us even more vulnerable to infection.

We’ve gotta get back to supporting, protecting and nurturing the terrain. That is what is going to keep us healthy long term.

And for kids especially.

Our kids are still building, developing their terrain. 

The terrain is the ecosystem that is our body and it informs the immune system.

The immune system is a learned system.

It learns through and needs exposure.

The more it’s exposed to, the more it learns, the more comfortable it is and knows what to do when it encounters a germ.

If it never learns, which is what is happening to a lot of kids immune systems right now, it doesn’t react, or it over reacts.

And this is why hundreds of kids are going to the hospital now with a common cold (a pediatric nurse who works in the hospital here in Austin told me this at a birthday party last month. I was as shocked as you probably are reading that.)

I’m deeply worried about our kids.
If it weren’t bad enough already — rates of allergies, asthma, autoimmunity in kids is already increasing year over year (1, 2).
This will do nothing to help that trend.

I feel the weight of it all.
And again, I remind myself… pick your battles. 

So I start with hand sanitizer.

I picked this battle at our preschool in the pre-pandemic days and I was surprised at how open the director was to me raising the issue.

There was a hand sanitizer pump in the hallway that I’d see all the kids pull every time they walked by (they thought it was fun).

I simply asked her (with a light, curious tone), “do you know why that’s there?” 

She said she honestly didn’t know.

I asked if I could share some resources with her about why I was concerned about it and her response was an emphatic “yes!”

It was a reminder:
We’re all doing the best we can with what we know, and have the time and energy to deal with.
We all want what’s best for our kids, for our own health and wellbeing.

And when you approach it gently, with the aim to share and collaborate, and contribute solutions, it’s hard to say no to that.

This is the resource doc I pulled together about hand sanitizer. — Including it here in case it may be helpful for you too.

And this is another resource doc on cleaning supplies that I ended up putting together as we moved forward together as a team on this initiative.

It’s hard out there being that mom, so we gotta stick together and support each other, ya know.

If I can help or support you in anyway, I’m here for ya, reach out any time.


P.S. Back to school means I’m back to work and I’ve got more openings for one-on-one health coaching. If you’re ready to dig into what’s causing your symptoms and get relief grab yourself a spot.

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