Day care is one big party for germsall those kids in close contact, sticking hands in noses and eyes. And at the end of the day, they bring home viruses and bacteria along with the finger paintings. For a study published in this month's issue of the journal Pediatrics, Harvard researchers gave families alcohol-based hand sanitizer and instructions on hygiene to find out if that would cut down on illness in the house.
The researchers were studying hand sanitizer because it's faster and easier than water, which, while highly effective at cleaning hands, requires you to be near a sink and to have a way to dry your hands. The alcohol is also quite effective at killing most bacteria and viruses, and it is easier on the hands than soap.
The 292 families who took part in the study were contacted through 26 child care centers in and near Boston. Each family was randomly assigned either to get the study treatmenta supply of Purell hand sanitizer and biweekly educational materials for five monthsor to get biweekly educational materials about eating a healthful diet.
The sanitizer didn't have a big effect on respiratory illnesses, but families who used it were less likely to pass around gastrointestinal illnesses. The researchers speculate that this could be because people are better about cleaning their hands after going to the bathroom than after wiping a child's nose.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer has been part of the resources at hospitals for a while; this study suggests that hand sanitizer can be a handy way to cut down on infection in the home, too.
Read the abstract: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org
For more information: All about hand hygiene from the Minnesota Department of Health, including how to wash your hands and how to clean with alcohol hand sanitizers