CNN posted an article in early October on a study that researchers in Spain conducted on hand washing for children under the age of three. They ended up finding that children who cleaned their hands with sanitizer instead of soap and water reduced their missed days of school, respiratory infections, and antibiotic prescriptions. We have summarized the study and findings below but you can read the entire article online at CNN.com.
The researches studied 911 children up to three years of age who attended 24 different daycare centers in Almeria, Spain. They split the families and the daycares into three groups. One of the groups used hand sanitizer to clean hands and the other used soap and water. Both of these group followed very strict protocols about hygiene. The third group, the control group, kept doing their usual hand-washing routines.
All of the groups participating in the study attended hand hygiene workshops before the study began. Every group except the control group also attended follow-up sessions about respiratory infections and fevers. They were given hygiene protocols including washing hands before and after lunch, as they arrived home, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their noses.
The study lasted for eight months. During that time, the 911 students had 5,211 respiratory infections that led to 5,186 missed days of daycare. The hand sanitizer group missed 3.25% of days of daycare, followed by the soap and water group, which missed 3.9% of days. The group following its usual hand-washing routine missed 4.2% of days. There was a 23% reduction in respiratory infections among the students using hand sanitizer compared with those in the control group.
Focus on Really Young Children
Dr. Don Goldmann, chief medical and scientific officer emeritus at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement pointed out that this study focuses solely on very young children. Goldmann believes that this builds on previous literature that supports the notion that you can reduce the spread of respiratory tract infections in really young kids if you use alcohol hand sanitizer.
Whether you choose to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water, it is important to keep your hands clean and to teach your children the importance of good hand washing and hygiene. Check out our blog on fighting the flu from every angle.