Oh, Please!

I hate hand sanitizers, but are kids really DRINKING them? Or setting them ON FIRE?? Or are we just coming up with more bizarre worries? (Yes, I know. Another rhetorical question. Did I mention we just MOVED? Hard to blog and unpack! ) — Lenore

65 Responses

  1. I suppose my biggest disappointment with myself during childhood is that it never occurred to me to make my own alcohol. The procedure is so trivial that it rivals the laziness of drinking handwash.

  2. Hand sanitizer is surprisingly flammable, and there have been incidents of burns.

    That being said, as I recall it’s pretty high percentage alcohol. You’d need to be a pretty hardened drinker to drink it.

  3. There was actually an incident earlier this year where a little girl was licking her hands or something and got a little sick. Still, a bit over the top

  4. Gee whiz! These kids nowadays! All we did was sniff the freshly mimeographed quiz sheets and permanent markers and take hits off the whipped cream. Oops, now they’ll put a warning on the whipped cream and markers!

  5. I don’t know how many kids came up with this idea, but a prisoner was recently found drunk. It’s suspected he might’ve mixed hand sanitizers with orange juice. Thanks to him, hand sanitizers are now banned from prison.

  6. On a related note (after reading the article), hand sanitizers CANNOT KILL VIRUSES. It WILL NOT kill flu viruses or common cold viruses. The only way to get rid of those viruses is to wash your hands.

  7. Good lord, I hate the hand sanitizer craze. JUST WASH YOUR HANDS. The thought that kids are being taught that you can just give yourself an alcohol/chemical rub and be clean instead of teaching them to WASH THEIR HANDS is horrifying.

  8. I agree that it certainly seems like an over-reaction on the school’s part, although it’s understandable they’d have concerns about children’s access to highly flammable materials. Case in point: apparently a couple of students DID manage to burn down their school with hand sanitizer in Sweden a few weeks ago…

    Link: http://www.thelocal.se/22376/20090930/

  9. I can confirm we set hand sanitizer on fire when I was a child.

    Not that I consider that particular incident as a good reason against using hand sanitizer where it is needed.

  10. I get sick of people lecturing me about the evils of hand sanitizer. The alcohol based ones are not likely to make super bugs. I can’t use the soap in public dispensers. The last time I did was when I helped my then 2 yo niece was her hands after being in the petting zoo at the Houston Zoo.

    In the next hour I was stopped multiple time by staff and 1 visitor offering me 1st aid. Basicly I had a chemical burn from the soap. I lost the top layer of skin and my hands were swollen and fissureing. I had to Ice down my hands to be able to drive home, get my sister to pick up niece early and take me to the doctor for treatment. I’ll stick to sanitizer thank you.

  11. Getting drunk on hand sanitizer had a big vogue among young people in Sweden a couple of years ago. As it is far from healthy, authorities felt obliged to remove them from public toilets.

  12. Unlike kherbert, I can’t use hand sanitizers or anti-bacterial soaps. My hands will be cracked and bleeding in hours after using. I just rinse with water and hope for the best!

  13. Using hand sanitizers is fine, but it’s like any other thing: They must be used appropriately. At the local college there are some people who rub down their hands with the stuff every five minutes.

    This past weekend, I was at Greenfield Village in Dearborn. They have a beautiful carousel, built in the 1920s. People can buy tickets and ride it. I noticed, though, that nearly every child on the carousel was accompanied by at least one adult. After a run of a carousel, I saw a man, a woman and their child sitting on a bench near it. The mother dispensed a squirt of hand sanitizer into the father and then the son’s hands. I thought to himself how many neuroses the poor child will have, being in terror of the slightest contamination.

  14. Can we not become reactionaries about hand sanitizer now? I mean, yes, it’s disturbing when anything that trivial becomes the newest, latest, hottest worry amongst the helicopter set, but let’s not condemn hand sanitizers all together and bemoan the days when we all just washed our hands!

    My daughter is 4 and some times in public restrooms she washes her hands. And sometimes it’s too skeezy and I say to her, “don’t worry about it, we’ll use the no-soap-soap”.


  15. I don’t carry hand sanitizer because my crazy daughter DID try to drink it and it takes very, very little to make a kid sick.

    I carry regular baby wipes in my purse for quick clean ups and those little compressed towels that bloom when they hit water. They work just fine for us.

  16. Bring back wet-naps!!

    I have heard hand sanitizer referred to as “prison shots”.

  17. This is tangential to the original post, but I felt I had to weigh in on some of the commentary. Hand sanitizers won’t kill viruses, but it will kill bacteria. Don’t be so quick to judge what you see others do (a common theme on this otherwise exceptional site). As the father of a 26 week premature baby, I was strongly encouraged to follow the hospital protocols until the first year of age when my boys immune system caught up to where it would otherwise be (it primarily develops in the last trimester, which he didn’t have). Now, you might say, well he’s a preemie an that isn’t that common, but prematurity occurs in 5-10% of all births. One of North America’s leading research hospitals (Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children) considers a 65% or greater alcohol solution to be more effective than hand washing except when there is visible soiling.

    Havng said all that, I do think it’s overkill for most people.

    Also, don’t confuse anti-bacterial with antibiotic. You won’t get superbugs from alcohol wipes.

  18. Amendment to my previous post: My wife pointed out that low % alcohol solutions and anti-bacterial soap are problematic, but not high alcohol solution.

  19. Amendment to my anecdote: no, we did not set fire to anything in a school. We took some sanitizer that we knew to contain alcohol, and set it in fire on a relatively controlled environment, on sand, etc.

    Also, I think if a daughter gets sick trying to drink hand sanitizer, one would think that the result would be “well, now you see why you should not do that again” — not getting rid of the hand sanitizer?

  20. I am torn on this one. I would love it if they would ban hand sanitizers from my kids’ school. My second started developing a very unhealthy fear of germs when her teacher insisted they use hand sanitizer whenever they entered the class (the teacher has since relaxed her stance on hand sanitization). But to ban it as a fire hazard and possible intoxicant seems silly.

    This statement made me laugh, though:
    “But at a time when officials are more concerned about swine flu, many believe some parents and educators may be overreacting.”
    Oh, the irony is killing me here!

  21. Lenore, I am equally disturbed by the reported number of parents who are not planning to have their children vaccinated against H1N1 in the mistaken belief that the vaccine is harmful. I see it as another manifestation of hypervigilant parenting. As it happens, I work for one of the vaccine makers and know a bit about the subject. To not vaccinate your children against H1N1 this year is to put your child and other children at risk of a serious illness. The vaccine *has* been tested and approved by the FDA in a similar manner to the seasonal flu vaccine. It is no more dangerous than the seasonal flu vaccine. The risk of an adverse side effect is miniscule compared to the serious complications of getting sick with an new influenza virus. One more thing: the vaccine makers signed contracts with the government years ago to provide pandemic vaccine in just such and event as we have today. When the vaccine is produced, it is turned over to state and federal agencies. The vaccine makers cannot profit from scarcity of the vaccine, which is how it should be.
    I have been hearing a lot of nonsense from panicky parents who would rather put their kids at serious risk, and other children as well since the vaccinated child takes up to 21 days to achieve full immunity, that I am really PO’d over how our educational system has failed to educate parents on science and disease. It’s atrocious. So many people are easily mislead and their idea of protecting their children from a vaccine or a preservative in the vaccine, which has been shown is NOT the cause of autism, is going to cause a lot of unnecessary infection among school children.
    I just thought I’d bring that up. Also, just like many parents think that antibiotics are good for everything, leading to bacterial resistence to these drugs, so too will many of these hypervigilant parents turn to antivirals tamiflu and relenza when as precautionary measures and lead to viral resistance to these drugs.
    The hand sanitizers probably can be set on fire. And if kids can find a way of experimenting with this phenomenon, they probably will. That’s what kids do. But the consequences of taking the hand sanitizers away, coupled with the reluctance of ignorant parents to vaccinate their kids, is going to have consequences this year.
    Spread the word.

  22. I hate hand sanitizer but for a different reason. My 9yo had to bring a bottle to school (for her personal use). She used it all up in the first weeks of school. That’s beside the point. The thing is she (and other kids) are using it before they eat, after playing outside and not washing their hands. It may “sanitize” their hands but it isn’t washing the dirt away. Gross. I’ve seen her hands so grubby they looked brown and she dumps some sanitizer on them and considers them clean and wants to eat and doesn’t understand why I’m yelling at her to go wash her hands with soap and water since she used the sanitizer.
    Sanitizer was meant to be used AFTER washing with soap. We had it on hand when I worked in food service.
    I don’t buy it or keep it anywhere. Soap and water are enough for us and my kids are rarely ever sick.

  23. Hand sanitizer is extremely handy to busy healthcare workers, and I noticed it is now in campground outhouses! It’s also nice that cashiers can use it, since handling money can be a big source of illness. It’s also a perfect binkie for germaphobe obsessive compulsives!

    Other than that, I don’t see much point in it if soap and water is available. We all got along just fine without it 10 years ago.

  24. riverdaughter,

    This is just personal curiosity, but how much lead time do scientists get for developing each years seasonal flu vaccines? I was under the impression they had maybe a year or less to predict the mutation each year and create the vaccine. That is why I was puzzled by people’s objections to the H1N1 vaccine.

    I’m a teacher with a history of asthma and a mild heart condition. I get the seasonal shot each year, and will get the H1N1 when the shot is available. (I’m not supposed to get the nasal spray). I consider it protecting myself, my students, my co-worker who is allergic to eggs, and the general public.

    I tried to explain to the hysterical parent that no I wasn’t contagious because I got the flu shot. (Her kid heard me mention to a staff member that my arm was a little sore from the shot).

  25. It’s ironic that the schools overreaction to the dangers of hand sanitizer may quell the schools overreaction to the dangers of viruses and bacteria in the environment.

  26. Antivaxxers are a whole different topic.

    Swine flu is as much of a beat up as Bird flu was – yes, it is a potentially dangerous illness, and no, you aren’t likely to get it or die from it. If you are that immunocompromised you are just as likely to die from plain old flu. Wash your hands with soap and don’t touch your face.

    The plague that’s going to kill us in droves hasn’t evolved yet – if it had we’d already know from the mountains of body bags we’d be stepping over, not from the strength of debate on soap vs. sanitizer.

    Once again, perceived risk and real risk are light years apart. Obesity has a higher mortality than Swine flu does – where’s the mad panic over it?

  27. That’s right. The fat parents and their fat kids are the ones taking years off their lives with eating habits that are entirely under their own control.

  28. High-alcohol based hand sanitizer have a great use, one where nothing else even compares: petting zoos. Other than that, I rarely use them.
    (I somehow manage to find myself in many situations with petting zoos. I’m a single 25 year old. My life rocks.)

  29. WorkingMom — I’ve actually been in the grocery store where someone young-looking (she looked to be in her late teens or early twenties…it’s a college town) was carded by the cashier because she wanted to buy a can or two of whipped cream. Not a CASE or two…a can or two. Her shopping cart also contained ice cream, jars of cherries and some bottles of chocolate syrup. The whipped cream was obviously intended for sundae ingredients, but the cashier looked at the girl like she was a hard-core addict and the other stuff in her cart was just a cover-up.

  30. There is nothing wrong with alcohol-based hand sanitizer so long as you are not drinking it or rubbing it in your eyes. It is a safe and effective way to quickly clean your hands. It is easily portable and can be used much more quickly and frequently than washing with soap and water in situations where there is a high probability of exposure to bugs you’d rather avoid. It is not “helicoptering” to want to avoid getting deathly ill with a miserable flu, missing weeks of school or work.

    Washing your hands is a medically-proven low-risk way to avoid getting ill or passing your illnesses along to other people. Taking a stance against it strikes me as adolescent contrarianism at its most asinine.

  31. Stuart, you don’t understand what is alarming scientists about H1N1. It is precisely the fact that it does NOT seem most severe among those you would expect (elderly, immunocompromised, etc) that is alarming and surprising. Rather, it is more likely to hospitalize or kill healthy 20-somethings or pregnant women, for instance, who in most flu seasons would not be nearly as vulnerable.

    If you’re going to take a dismissive stance, at least understand what you are dismissing.

  32. One of the problems with the hand sanitizer gels is that they are adding fruit scents to them, which makes them smell extremely tasty. And a little one does not need to lick very much hand sanitizer to get alcohol poisoning.

    I understand there are non-alcohol hand sanitizers around that schools can use as well.

    I can’t understand why the schools say there are not enough sinks for all of the kids to wash their hands. This was never a problem at my schools . . .

  33. What I want do know is if the alcohol content is that high in hand sanitizers are they carding people who buy them? Kids can and will try all sorts of weird things. One of my boys was carded when he bought Duck Tape. Yes Duck Tape, apparently you can roll it up and smoke the adhesive from the back????

    And I agree with the person who commented about us make our kids paranoid about germs. Unless you are actively ill and sneezing or coughing on your hands, washing before eating, after bathroom visits and when your hands are visibly dirty is plenty.

  34. Mammatiamat (great name, btw), I thought that (in schools, at least) use of hand sanitizers had been shown to reduce the incidence of gastrointestinal disease such as rotovirus, but not of respiratory disease such as colds and flu?

    Mind, I’ll still take all the hand sanitizer I can get if it’ll keep me from getting my third-in-three-years case of rotovirus (or something very like it). Horrible disease – throwing up every hour on the hour all night long, and pooping too. Do you sit on the toilet, or do you get up to vomit into it? Either way, you’ll end up mopping the floor. MISERABLE disease. Ugh.

    I can understand why schools have fallen for hand sanitizers as well, and I don’t think it has as much to do with fear as all that.

    Schools get paid for having children in attendance. It’s stupid, but it’s true – if your kid is absent, they lose money. (Because their costs go down if one kid is out sick…?) They walk a very delicate line between encouraging kids to come in all the time (prizes for 100% attendance!) and wanting kids to stay home if they’re contagious because one sick kid can make the whole class sick. Anything that could potentially reduce the incidence of disease in the school = money for them.

    And I know, have them all wash their hands before eating and all that. Well, no. Handwashing takes more time and children have a bigger chance to play around. Plus, you KNOW how public bathrooms are – the water doesn’t run unless you hold down the handle, and there’s never any soap, and it’s always cold water anyway. If that sort of “washing” is supposed to get hands clean it’s hard to see how. Hand sanitizer is cheaper than altering the plumbing of the building, especially if they can make the parents pay for it at the start of the school year.

  35. PDW, I don’t know what schools you went to, but it was a problem at mine. All of them. There weren’t any sinks outside of the bathrooms in the first place, and escorting kids into the bathroom before lunch just wasn’t going to work. And inside the bathrooms there were maybe two or three sinks (one of which would be broken, not like they worked so great to begin with, see my previous post). Two or three sinks is fine for when kids go to the bathroom in class, but how does it serve for the 24 or more kids in even ONE class to wash their hands before lunch? (And when does just one class go to lunch at a time?)

  36. I’m a hard-core handwashing advocate, particularly with bathroom trips (I don’t care what you did or didn’t touch, wash your hands anyway).
    But I spend a lot of time in schools (I’m in a teacher education program). And sometimes kids (and teachers) can’t get away from the classroom or don’t have enough time to wash their hands between class and lunch. I can understand that a few squirts of sanitizer is easier (particularly after a sneeze or cough). It also tends to give everyone involved a bit more peace of mind than the alternative of wiping hands on pants. I can understand why hand sanitizer is considered the savior of school systems.
    I think that making it easier for students (and teachers and everyone who works around other people) to wash their hands on a regular basis would be ideal. However, there’s so much emphasis on convenience and sticking to the schedule that it probably won’t happen that way.
    Of course, there’s also the idea that kids can’t be left unsupervised (and teachers can’t exactly stand in the bathroom with them). In the last two schools I observed in, kids were either only allowed scheduled bathroom breaks (with an escort) or if their “hall pass” page of the school-issued planner signed by the current teacher (and teachers would not sign more than once a week during any given class). These were both middle schools, and I remember high school being a tiny bit more lenient (there was a restroom near the cafeteria for students, which was across the hall from the main office), but not much.
    Personally, I’d like to teach in a school where I’d have the freedom to work on life skills (like critical thinking at least) instead of state-mandated curriculum. But that’s an entirely different topic.

  37. Alcohol, in high enough concentrations, kills just about everything, including viruses:

    “It also has high viricidal activity against many different kinds of viruses, including enveloped viruses such as the flu virus, the common cold virus, and HIV, though is notably ineffective against the rabies virus.”

    “According to Rotter (1999), “alcohol rubs are approximately 100 times more effective against viruses than any form of hand washing”. Isopropyl alcohol will instantly kill 99.99 percent or more of all non-spore forming bacteria in less than 30 seconds, both in the laboratory and on human skin.[14][15] A controlled study of 200 workers at FedEx in 2004 showed that placing hand sanitizer dispensers in an office and educating workers about their use resulted in a 21% reduction in absenteeism.[21] Controlled studies showed an even greater reduction in absenteeism (51%) in elementary schools[22] and college dormitories (43%).[23]”


  38. For a blog that prides itself on statistics, let’s stick to the facts.

  39. MITBeta – thank you thank you thank you
    that’s what I wanted to say but didn’t have the studies to back it up. Now I do 🙂

  40. Many preschools began to use hand sanitizers a lot because it is a lot easier to squirt and have them rub rather than try to line all the kids up and wash their hands (especially since the teachers usually have to do the washing for it to be effective).

    Of course, it turns out that preschoolers are the ones most likely to be affected negatively by the alcohol content due to their small size and propensity for sucking on their fingers and thumbs.

    Right after my preschool told us to stop using the hand sanitizer and cited a case of a small child appearing drunk (and tracing it back to the sanitizer), I was at my hair salon and my stylist began to tell me of the weird, drunk-like behavior of her 2 or 3 year old grandchild. I believe the doctors couldn’t find a virus or bacteria and it is highly possible it was the hand sanitizer, as the family used it a lot in lieu of soap and water and the child sucked his thumb.

    That being said, I do keep a small container of hand sanitizer in my car for those icky rest stops and gas station bathrooms with no soap or questionable facilities.

  41. I was never taken to the bathroom to wash my hands before lunch in school. It was never suggested. We ate, went outside for recess and back to our desks. The only time we washed our hands was after using the bathroom because we taught that at home. It never occurred to me to check if my daughter washed her hands before lunch in kindergarten. I just asked her and she said they never washed their hands unless they had just done a messy project. Guess what? She didn’t miss one day of school. I agree with washing your hands but I refuse to obsess over it and we are one of the healthiest families in our group. (I hate the smell and feel of hand sanitizers so we don’t use them.)

  42. Of course, MaeMae, anecdotal evidence doesn’t prove much. If ALL of your group went to the same kindergarten where they only washed their hands occasionally, SOME family has to be the healthiest and some OTHER family has to be the least healthy. That’s just the way groups work. The only way to figure these things is with the power… of SCIENCE.

  43. How did we all become so precious that constant hand sanitising is such an issue. Why is your health so poor that your immune system cannot cope with everyday or common childhood illnesses? Or has there been too much tampering with your ‘temple’ as to what is being injected into it or rubbed exteranlly onto it? Getting back to the ‘Freerange kids’, I remember being so busy as a child playing outdoors, tracking down friends to have adventures with in the neighbourhood that washing hands probably happened maybe twice a day. Begining of the day and before dinner as word got to me in the streets that my grandma wanted me home for dinner. I’m a true believer in keeping things simple. Teaching our children hygiene and to use soap and water, providing them with the freshest and most nutricious food I can get my hands on, sparkling clean fresh water, excercise, sunshine etc (I’m very lucky to be living in Australia). I’m also a true believer in allowing your own immunity to build naturally by giving it the support mentioned above. Immunisation is also an issue that requires us as parents to make the best choice for ourselves and our children. Hopefully people make the choice by actually doing their own research into the matter rather than following the herd blindly or by being bullied into it. Everybody has a right to make their own choice.

  44. Uly, I wasn’t arguing with any statistics posted here. I was merely pointing out that it had never occurred me to wonder about kids washing their hands at school. And sorry but sometimes thirty years of experience can make scientific findings seem far away from daily life. Not wrong, per se, but a little overboard in their finality.

    Helenna – I think you made the point I didn’t know I was trying to make. Thank you!

  45. MaeMae, scientific findings rarely have any finality at all, so how can they seem “overboard” in it?

  46. Let me just say this. I am the safety director for a Sd . Though it was against my better judjment I was told to insall this stuff last year out of people fear over the H1N1. Then no sooner thatn it was installed I a Email from some one who searched snoopes?? In short it claimed that some child some hwere had consumed this stuff and got drunk. I rushed out and grabbed this stuff and put a squirt in my hand and took a lick. Are they kidding me?. this stuff is tough… real tough! to get down. So I’m a bit suspect of the story. I agree that it is flameable . 65% alcho. But very unlikely to catch fire . I still believe we are fooling our selves when we use this stuff as opposed to a good hand washing.

  47. Also, you didn’t “merely point out” that you never wondered about kids washing their hands, you made the statement that with your kids rarely washing their hands you’re one of the “healthiest” families in your group and that they didn’t have a day sick in kindergarten.

    You may think you weren’t drawing conclusions, but it sure sounds like it to me. Your family, by luck of the draw, happens to be pretty healthy. Other families aren’t. Now, I don’t think that the use of hand sanitizer really does promote general health that much (though I’m hoping not to throw up and poop this year), but I do think that the only way to know what really does promote or doesn’t promote health is to really research things… not to rely on “My friend does this and that happens”.

  48. mammatiamat – I still class Swine flu as a beat up, regardless of whether it causes a cytokine storm (or some other effect that kills the healthy) or not. The question is whether the *real risk* of the illness matches the *purported risk*, the answer of course is that it doesn’t. It’s the stranger danger of viruses – there are other things that are a far bigger deal than this (especially when we have a vaccine for it).

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s not harmless – but it also isn’t the viral apocalypse that a few espouse (and the media and helicopter parents love).

  49. Do we think they knew when the 1919 flu started where it was going?

    FYI the nasal spray does contain some live virus, so I as an immuncomprimised person will not be getting that but will be getting the shot. (And honestly, I am so tired of this off handed comment about “unless you are immuncompromised” It makes me feel like its okay if *I* die to a lt of people.)
    There is also hand sanitizer that does not have alcohol in it.

  50. “Do we think they knew when the 1919 flu started where it was going?” – considering that it happened in the middle of a world war, and that it’s called Spanish flu because Spain was the only country that didn’t censor the media reports, then no. But I’d like to think that we’ve made some progress in epidemiology in 90 years. All I’m saying is *I* (as in me, not everyone) believe that the hysteria surrounding H1N1 is exactly that and nothing more.

    As for the immuncompromised deserve to die comment, how preposterous. You no more deserve death because you need a vaccine than a diabetic deserves death because they need insulin. To imply that is the point of my comment is something of a stretch – and a disingenuous one at that.

  51. MITBeta – germphobe mum here – thanks for the stats. l was sure I’d checked all that out but then doubted!
    But what are germs when there is hand gel to worry about!?!
    I must immediately remove it from my home (along with the paper, dry grass and leaves in the yard, matches for the gas stove, and everything else that might possibly catch fire) While I’m there l’ll check for spindles too – in case there was a Wicked Fairy at my sons’ baptisms –
    As for drinking it – I’m sorry, I do not believe it. Have you TASTED it? (I’m so neurotic about germs I have been known to put it on my face when something disgusting contacted it). You would have to be a hardened alcoholic to actually swallow it.
    And if a child licks his hand and it makes him sick – I guess he might not do that again. Just like when I touched the hot iron as a kid/ But the things I’ve known my youngest put in his mouth and survive, somehow I doubt it’s much of a risk.
    Speaking of alcohol – I presume the parents who are worrying about their children being immolated by spontaneous human combustion have eliminated wine, beer and whisky from their homes long ago?

  52. Al right, all right, Uly, you win. I think most of your comments are great and spot on but you do love to start an argument even when no one is trying to argue. I retract my former statement. Science rules and I am healthy by luck.

  53. I am in Boy Scouts, and one of the things that we do when we can’t get the campfire started is to pour purell on the (unlit) fire. At least it’s safer than the stuff we used to do.

  54. Alcohol based? I’d have been all over that like a bad suit when I was that age! Yes, that means I’d have been setting it on fire at every opportunity!

  55. My daughter DID drink hand sanitizer when she was 22 months old. She had to be rushed to the hospital where they did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING except watch her. She drank about 2 tablespoons with no ill effects. So yes kids do drink the stuff, but even if they do they aren’t going to die. I didn’t get rid of it after she drank it because I figured she wouldn’t drink it again, having learned that if she did drinnk it bad things would happen. And sure enough, she never drank it again.

  56. Not long ago, with all the H1N1 B.S., there was a big worry about sending hand sanitizer to Manitoba Native reserves in fear that they are going to get drunk off it…

  57. Part of the problem with the way people and the media interpret the information about swine flu is that they’re confusing the individual and societal impacts of the virus. At the individual level, an infection is about as serious as a seasonal flu infection. That’s somewhat more serious than most people think, but not as serious as fear makes it out to be. The only real difference at the individual level is that you’re more likely to catch it than the seasonal flu. So it’s something to be prudent about but not to panic about.

    At the societal level, though, that “more likely to catch it” part has potentially major effects, because it means that there are going to be large numbers of people sick with the flu all at the same time. That means lots of people staying home from work or school all at once. It means a major increase in the number of people who need hospital treatment in a given period (even though the chance that any particular individual with the flu will need to be hospitalized is pretty low). What we have to deal with at the societal level is a large number of fairly small impacts all adding up. It’s really an issue of scale; our various societal systems assume that at most a certain number of people are going to be sick at any time.

  58. I think that’s hilarious. I actually got a recommendation from another parent regarding hand sanitizer. If your kid is going to gnaw on the chair arm at the bowling alley, wipe the HS on it. Because it tastes so gross, they’ll likely not want to anymore, and even if they do, it will be cleansed of the [beer, tar,four-day-old ketchup, what have you]. Problem solved!

  59. I am a boy scout and therefore an implied pyro so yes i have lit it on fire, but at school? never! why would you?

  60. Some notes.

    First, regarding H1N1.

    Yes, it has the potential to kill people (more from complications, such as opportunistic bugs like pneumonia). However, the current mutation has killed fewer people than seasonal flu in the same amount of time (and has so far killed fewer overall than seasonal flu does in a year). Roughly half of the deaths that have occurred from H1N1 have been in South America. The United States has had under half as many deaths, most of which coming from states such as California, Texas, and Florida, where much of the population was likely to come in contact with someone who was infected during the initial outbreak.

    Yes, the 1919 pandemic was a strain of H1N1. However, as others have pointed out, our knowledge of epidemiology, and for that matter, medicine, has advanced in the near-century since. Just as the Black Plague is no longer a threat to wiping us out, H1N1 is not as big of a threat as it was in 1919.

    Yes, the CDC has considered it unique and therefore has deemed it a pandemic. It is unique in that the immunocompromised, elderly, extremely young, pregnant, and other usually higher-risk people are at no higher risk than the healthy, usually low-risk portion of the population. The usually low-risk people have been affected just as much by this strain of H1N1. That said, it’s not resistant to Tamiflu and other standard antivirals, so treatment is no different than any other normal viral treatment.

    Second, some notes on hand sanitizers.

    Yes, some children do lick the sanitizer. Remember, these are little kids, who are liable to eat some of the weirdest things. Kids have been known to eat paste, dirt, and Play-Dough, despite the fact that none of these things would be considered palatable to most people.

    Yes, kids can get sick from it, if they ingest enough. As others have mentioned, many alcohol-based hand sanitizers have 60%+ concentrations of alcohol. It takes about one ounce for a small child to get alcohol poisoning (in other words, a good chunk of a bottle, if not a whole one), and of course, less to make them sick.

    Not all hand sanitizers are made with Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. In fact, Purell and Germ-X use Ethyl alcohol (aka drinking alcohol). This can change the toxicity (and I’d guess palatablity) of the sanitizer.

    Yes, alcohol based hand sanitizers are flammable. They’re made with 60%+ alcohol, what do people expect? Keep it away from the Bunsen burners and for Pete’s sake, don’t store it on the lamp! (Okay, joking aside, take the same precautions you do with anything else that’s flammable, such as the paper that’s everywhere, and store it away from things that would catch it on fire.)

  61. I am a boy scout and therefore an implied pyro so yes i have lit it on fire, but at school? never! why would you?

    So your eyes can see the glory of the burning of the school? You can bust up every window, you can break every rule? You can go up and down the halls writing cuss words on the walls, and you won’t go to school no more?

  62. It’s not about starting an argument, btw. It’s about not being wrong. When you say things that aren’t correct, you are wrong. What am I supposed to do, let people be wrong all the time?

    I believe this XKCD sums it up:


  63. Wow! My mom was right! At my 8 year old son’s birthday part a few weeks ago she did a little flip out when I told a parent concerned that the sinks were down the hall in the place we rented that I did have hand sanitizer available. My mom went on to chronicle all the drunken episodes she had heard about. My mom is a nurse, so you’d think she’d not be THAT person.

    Anyway, I looked at my son. He and his friends were clearly more interested in building with LEGO than getting high, which I pointed out. But my mom kept going on. I finally had to tell my own mother to stop talking lest she give the kids ideas. But really, they are so oblivious they’d have no clue what getting high was all about anyway.

    I work in a preschool and we have to use soap and water. Hand sanitizer is only acceptable when soap and water are not available. We do have foam soap, but it’s not antibacterial or anti-anything-else-we’re-scared-of. But somehow, the kids stay pretty healthy.

    One peeve I have about hand sanitizer is the idea that it fixes everything. I have two food allergic children and people say, it’s ok, I’ll have everyone use hand sanitizer so they won’t get any allergens on them. Last I checked, food proteins weren’t something you could kill. They’re more like dirt than germs. You have to use soap and water or other mechanical means of removal. We’re use baby wipes when we feel it’s necessary and hand sanitizer as a follow-up if the kids were wrestling with a child that had snot flying out of his nose. But that’s the extent of it.

    I wish my kids’ school had more sinks. There are 12 sinks total for 420 children and it’s rare that they’re all in working order.

  64. I think that we get a little carry away when it come to protecting our kids. Let’s focus on teaching them how to become more healthy.

  65. My brother used to coat his hands in rubber cement, then set it on fire. Just sayin.

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