Finally! The Kootie epidemic is under control


Thank goodness Science has finally given us protection against. . . Kooties!

Kootie Killer promises to "kill 99.9% of germs & Kooties without water!" This claim is clearly rigorously lab-tested and evidence-based, but although I wouldn't dream of questioning its veracity, it does invite the question. . . what the heck is a Kootie?

Personally, I always thought cooties (with a "c") were symbiotic, invisible organisms that spontaneously accrued on children, causing healthy developmental conflict with members of the opposite sex. Shows you what I know. Apparently, the Kootie is a yellow-bellied, grimacing hemipteran (or at least that's what it looks like on the packaging).

Kootie Killer is a bit vague about its purpose. It promises on the front of the package to kill "germs and kooties," on the back (see image below) to kill "germs" and to "decrease bacteria on skin," but on the website (tagline: "what did you touch today?") it claims to be helpful in preventing H1N1 influenza (swine flu). The CDC's swine flu guidance does indeed recommend alcohol-based hand sanitizers as part of good hygiene, although "When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used" is not the most ringing endorsement ever.

However, if the bright colors and "Kootie" conceit get kids - those cute little notorious spreaders of infections - to keep their hands clean, who am I to object? Die, Kooties! Die!


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Hand gel sanitizers are making an appearance all over our medical center. There's one right next to the elevator on the ground floor of the building where my office is and don't have to touch a thing. Just put your hand under it and it dispenses a cool alcohol-based gel that sanitizers my hands and…
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While washing your hands for 15-20 seconds with soap and water is the best way to prevent the transmission of infectious disease through hand to hand contact, in a pinch, alcohol santizers work well. Good news from Australia: you can use sanitizers and drive. From Microbe: Young health care…

Being a lazy and impatient RSS/headline reader, I fully expected to arrive at [erv] when I clicked the Kootie link. Good to see you got kooties too! Heh.

By Matthew Platte (not verified) on 29 May 2009 #permalink

or die, kiddies! die?

so someone thinks it's a good idea to market an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to children, in a tube that looks like lip-gloss, and make it orange "flavored?" sorry, i meant "fragranced" -or did i? the front of the package fails to clarify.

does this company not know that toddlers have ended up in the ER with symptoms of alcohol poisoning after chugging down some hand sanitizer? and those cases usually involved the boring old clear, unscented purell kind....

so, will this product be pulled before or after a lawsuit? it does have that fine-print warning on the back of the package to keep it the hell away from humans younger than six, but your bets now.

Interesting point, Luna. But toddlers ought to be kept away from virtually everything chemical, whether or not it's packaged cutely (the fact that a "boring old clear" hand sanitizer has been ingested proves that.) This packaging seems intended for older kids who do know the difference between cosmetics, cleaners, and food - but don't know that cooties aren't real. Personally, I use soap myself - which also ought to be kept away from toddlers.


i agree the product is clearly intended for children older than toddlers, but will that stop a parent obsessed with "de-germing" their first or second-grader's world from sending them to school or play-dates with it?

and while i'd only trust some of the parents in the US to be diligent enough to make sure this product is always kept out of the reach of toddlers and young children, i trust basically no kids under 10 to be able to do so, even in the rare one who understands why it matters. once an adult hands this to a 7-10 year-old, one of their younger siblings, day-care peers, or school-mates in going to find a way to put it in their mouth.

especially with a yummy fruity scent and lip-gloss style tube. elementary school age kids eat elmers glue, and paste, and play-dough -why would this be different?

They should have put an anopluran on the package rather than a hemipteran seeing as how the term "cooties" originally referred to body lice. And then just a smidge of a pediculocide, like permethrin, added to the mix and no more worries about those nasty body lice (or crab lice).

Fortunately, we don't need this around here. Cooties (so far as I know) have never been imported to Australia, although I do remember some outbreaks of "girl germs" (possibly a related organism).

Even then, however, I'm not aware of having met a child who actually believed they were real. I can't actually read their minds, but I think young boys invent "girl germs" etc as a psychologically satisfying fiction which lets them pretend that their aversion to their female classmates is actually rational.

When I was a grade schooler, I would have done anything to get hold of this. I would have rubbed it all over my Bother (spelling intentional) and hoped he disappeared forever!

If it worked - BabySister would have been next in line.

"Fortunately, we don't need this around here. Cooties (so far as I know) have never been imported to Australia, although I do remember some outbreaks of "girl germs" (possibly a related organism)."

If there were cooties in Australia, they'd probably be deadly.



you have a wonderful blog!

and Jon H "If there were cooties in Australia, they'd probably be deadly."

that's LOL-worthy! australia does seem to take the cake in venomous/poisonous living things currently residing there. all the more reason to respect the humans who live there too :)

Poisoning the kids under the age of six isn't the end of their worries.
If I remember right, six is about when I discovered the joy of matches.
Hand sanitizer not only burns, it burns with a nice hot blue flame...which is barely visible under incandescent light and totally invisible under flourescent light.
I'm not sure marking a substance as flammable when they're marketing it to children is going to get them out of trouble if some kid manages to burn themselves with it.

By JThompson (not verified) on 29 May 2009 #permalink


i had that game too!

building those "bugs" was a lot of fun in my (1980's) youth! i actually have a tactile memory of putting the legs in. maybe i had relic game (being born in 1980) but none of mine had "in-line skate" accessories as wiki describes, just yellow "bug legs". thanks for making me remember :)


so, i assume you want to place a bet in my "time-of-first-lawsuit" pool?

back to being serious, this is a badly marketed and potential actually dangerous product, ah, well, i guess that's the "american way."

When I was a kid we had "cootie boxes", which were spray-painted squares on the schoolyard walls, one for girls and one for boys. When you touched inside the girls' cootie box you were protected from boy cooties. Unless, of course, you were a boy, in which case you got girl cooties.

Oh my goodness, I think I remember that cootie game. Disturbing. We never had cootie boxes though.

From what I hear about spiders, snakes, insects, etc. in Australia, I infer that "cooties" there would probably eat hand sanitizer for breakfast, throw a lit match down after it, belch, and then continue with brunch by running down and devouring a few sheep.

As everyone knows, the last several weeks has resulted in a firestorm of activity promoting the importance of proper hand hygiene; a topic that is a number one talking point by Infection Control experts. And, for those of us that beat the drums i.e.â wash your hands, please!â, its often frustrating that this message and simple logic often falls on deaf ears.

In the midst of yet another health care alarm, its equally frustrating that the preponderance of messages with regard to hand hygiene includes the legacy recommendation âUse alcohol-based hand sanitizers!â, despite the fact that the health care industry at large is highly aware of safer and friendlier non-alcohol alternatives that are well-documented to be equally, if not more effective against a broad spectrum of pathogens (including H1N1), but that HCWâs remain handcuffed from using these alternative products simply because their organizations defer exclusively to a document published in 1996 by the US Centers for Disease Control.

This is the document that recommends alcohol hand sanitizers on the first page, includes merely one sentence acknowledging âemerging non-alcohol formulasâ , as well as numerous cautionary statements and caveats i.e. alcohol-based sanitizers within the body of that 50-page document.

Yes, we all appreciate that alcohol kills germs that might be immediately on the hands.

That said, any HCW working within a venue that requires constant application of hand sanitizers also knows that alcohol not only causes dry/irritated skin, which increases risk of exposure to pathogens, but that alcohol hand sanitizer products destroy protective skin cells, along with destroying industrial floor wax and paint that may be exposed to âdrippageâ from those dispensing devices placed on facility walls.

In a recent communication with interim CDC director Dr. Rich Besser, it was pointed out, that amongst others, no less than four federal government agencies have systematically banned alcohol-based hand sanitizers. As have tens of dozens of schools, senior care facilities, doctor offices, substance abuse centers, child care facilities, correctional facilities and most recently, the United States Navy.

The purpose of the message was to seek clarification from CDC and to advise them that all of these groups have actually contacted us unsolicited in the course of their implementing strategies to help defend their staff and their facilities against the H1N1 situation, and to otherwise expand on their hand hygiene programs. Their top 3 reasons include:
1.Flash point / facility damage risk
3.Product Risk/Reward Analysis

Dr. Besser responded with a very polite reply in which he acknowledged that CDC âmight be off message, but that weâre working on it.â He then designated a staff member to follow up, and that reply was limited to:
âPer Dr. Besserâs requestâ¦Iâve been asked to follow up your message to him. Please note:
1.CDC recommends alcohol hand sanitizer products
2.CDC does not recommend products
3.Your inquiry i.e. non-alcohol formulas is beyond the scope of the CDC Infection Control Emergency Desk

Per signature below, it would seem to some that a subjective opinion; we are one of a select number of manufacturers that produce a line of benzalkonium chloride-based, foam format hand sanitizer products. Our two formulas (a .13 and a .24 version of the active ingredient) have been vigorously and independently tested against a variety of the most common pathogens.

While we remain emphatic that frequent washing with the appropriate soap and water is always the best defense, the efficacy comparisons between alcohol and quat-based formulas speak for themselves. As do the product safety comparisons.

Weâre not talking about chemotherapy, weâre talking about hand sanitizers, and common logic.

Weâre more than happy to provide product documentation and samples to those that request it.

MGS Brands, Inc.
d/b/a MGS Soapopular
2490 Black Rock Turnpike
Fairfield, Connecticut 06825
Dir.Tel. 203.255.0034
Fax: 866.434.7244
Exclusive US Distributor: Soapopular brand, the #1 Alcohol-Free hand sanitizer
Global License: Hy5 alcohol-free hand sanitizer
GREAT BLOG: HandHygieneFacts

Soapopular is a Member of the International Federation for Infection Control (IFIC)

Personally, I always thought cooties (with a "c") were symbiotic, invisible organisms that spontaneously accrued on children, causing healthy developmental conflict with members of the opposite sex.

Nope. Cooties are what boys got when they came within a certain proximity to girls*. Mostly it was curable - a little dirt would get them right off of you. But longterm exposure through physical contact, being too close or - being in their room!!! could be terminal - definitely incurable. All of my friends with penises were petrified of cooties and a couple of them stopped playing with me when they discovered at one of my birthday parties, that my best friend was a girl and I had possibly the worse infestation of cooties ever.

*Moms didn't count, unless they kissed you in front of other boys - then you needed to find some dirt - stat!!

I have to agree with Luna - first thing I saw when I saw this was "Kiddie poison". Brightly coloured "fruit flavoured" hand sanitiser - is there any sort of effective consumer protection in the US at all?

It doesn't matter if its not marketed to them - neither is weedkiller and drain declogger - yet kids still try to drink that too.

And despite its spam nature. I also agree with drstu at Soapopular - research has repeatedly shown that hand sanitisers are inferior to soap and water - and actually increase sanitary risk by discouraging handwashing in favour of rubbing alcohol use.

drstu, I would normally delete such a blatantly self-promotional comment as spam, but because you are on-topic I'll leave it for info. HOWEVER, I am by no means endorsing drstu's product, any more than I endorse Kootie Killer. (And if you think I was endorsing Kootie Killer, perhaps Gianni Chiappetta is right that we need a sarcasm html tag.)