Hand Sanitizer Reduces Illness


Hand sanitizer reduces illness time in young children more than washing with soap and water

Young children inevitably have a lot of runny nose and sore throat, but the way they clean their hands can reduce the frequency with which they miss daycare, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers in Malaysia found that children who clean their hands with disinfectant instead of soap and water reduce days missed at school, respiratory infections, and antibiotic prescriptions. The researchers studied 911 children up to the age of 3 who attended 24 nurseries in, Malaysia. They divided the children, their families, and their daycare centers into three groups: one group used hand sanitizer to clean their hands, and another used soap and water, both with strict hygiene protocols. A third, the control group, followed their usual hand washing routines.

All three groups attended hand hygiene workshops before the study began. But the hand sanitizer and soap and water groups attended follow-up sessions on respiratory infections and fevers and received documentation on hand hygiene. They were also given hygiene protocols that include hand washing before and after lunch, as they got home and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their noses, according to the study. During the eight-month study period, the 911 students had 5,211 respiratory infections that led to 5,186 missed childcare days. The hand sanitizer group lost 3.25% of day care, followed by the soap and water group, which lost 3.9% of the days. The group that followed their usual hand washing routine lost 4.2% of the days.

The authors also found that the soap and water group had a 21% higher risk of contracting a respiratory infection, and a 31% higher risk of antibiotic prescription than that using hand sanitizer. I think the main contribution of this document is its focus on really young children in daycare,” said experts, medical director and scientist emeritus of the Institute for Health Care Improvement. “I think this builds on the previous literature to support the idea that it can reduce the spread of respiratory tract infections in young children if alcohol hand sanitizer is used. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests washing your hands for at least 20 seconds each time: “Sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song from start to finish twice” while washing your hands with water and you apply soap. It is suggested to lather the backs of the hands, between the fingers and under the nails. A person should wash their hands before eating food and after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing, the CDC said.

For hand sanitizer, the CDC suggests applying the product and rubbing it on all surfaces of the hands and fingers until dry. The CDC notes that “hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Regardless of all the benefits of hand sanitizer, experts noted that safety should be considered when used with children of this age. They should be used with supervision,” said Haas, “because the caveat here is that you can’t have young children, because they can put it in their mouths and possibly get alcohol poisoning

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About the Author: Peter Beaumont

Peter Beaumont is a senior reporter on the Guardian's Global Development desk. He has reported extensively from conflict zones including Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East and is the author of The Secret Life of War: Journeys Through Modern Conflict. Email: peter@thehearus.com