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My toddler still sucks her thumb. Is it safe for her to use hand sanitizers?

By Dr. Alan Greene
 

Keeping hands clean is one of the best ways to keep your toddler healthy during cold and flu season. But not all hand sanitizers are created equal.

For your thumb-sucking little one, opt for a sanitizer made with thymol, a safe, plant-based ingredient. Thymol is the first disinfectant to carry no health risks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Your next best bet is an alcohol-based sanitizer, which is safe as long as you watch to make sure it evaporates completely after application. If it doesn't, it can be toxic, so children should only use these products under adult supervision.

Steer clear of sanitizers made with benzalkonium chloride -- sometimes labeled "alcohol-free" to imply that it is safer. Some recent studies have associated the use of this chemical with asthma. Although most of the studies were on people who were exposed to large quantities, there's no reason to take risks -- especially since asthma in kids has tripled in the last 25 years.

Dr. Alan Greene is a pediatrician and the author of Feeding Baby Green. He founded the Web site DrGreene.

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