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Wear The Gown: Avoiding toxic hand sanitizers

Methanol poisoning is a big concern among physicians.

SAN ANTONIO — With so many hand sanitizers on the market it can be hard to tell which one is best. Here's how to determine if the sanitizer you are using is helpful, hurtful, or even toxic.

To be a good hand sanitizer it needs the right ingredients and the right amount of those ingredients. But if you end up with a hand sanitizer containing methanol and too much of it ends up in your body it can make you sick, and in high doses can even kill you. 

"If you look at the ingredients on the packaging for the hand sanitizer if it has that 60% level of ethyl alcohol or 70% or higher isopropyl or I said propanol you'll be good," said Dr. Jason Bowling, who is an infectious disease physician and the hospital epidemiologist at University Health System. He says you need to watch out for sanitizers with methanol. Dr. Bowling added, "Methanol can go through the skin, it can cause symptoms and in a worst-case scenario if a small child or an adult Intentionally drinks the alcohol-based hand rub with methanol they are at risk for methanol toxicity."

Some of the symptoms of methanol toxicity include nausea and vomiting, headaches, blurry vision or even blindness, seizures, and if ingested could result in death. Dr. Bowling told us, "If someone were to drink an alcohol-based hand rub that had methanol in it, it can reach peak levels in one to two hours, so a really short time frame to have high levels of methanol in the body which could prove to be fatal."

But when you find that safe sanitizer and use it you've also got to make sure you're applying the sanitizer often enough. Dr. Bowling added, "The FDA recommends that if you have hand sanitizer that makes claims that aren't true such as this will protect you for 24 hours from COVID-19, you should look at that with some skepticism this is probably not an approved product." 

Dr. Bowling also says you can go to the FDA webpage to see if you have a hand sanitizer that has fraudulent claims or methanol in them.

For more information about family health call 210-358-3045. You can also find the rest of Wear The Gown stories, just go to WearTheGown.com.