Is hand sanitizer better at preventing the flu than soap and water? – Harvard Health Blog


Frequent use of hand sanitizer, as a substitute of cleaning soap and water, could result in fewer respiratory infections, fewer sick days, and fewer antibiotic use — at the least in case you’re a toddler. A Spanish study enrolled 911 youngsters who attended day care, from newborns as much as three-year-olds, and randomly assigned them to considered one of three teams.

Within the management group, mother and father and caregivers continued normal hand look after the toddlers. Within the two intervention teams, youngsters have been assigned to both labor-intensive hand sanitizer use or cleaning soap and water handwashing. Dad and mom and caregivers have been instructed to both apply hand sanitizer or wash the toddlers’ palms once they arrived on the classroom within the morning; earlier than and after lunch; after enjoying exterior; after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their noses; after diapering; and earlier than they left for house. In each teams, handwashing with cleaning soap and water was necessary after utilizing the bathroom or when palms have been grossly dirty.

Outcomes within the hand sanitizer group have been considerably higher than both the cleaning soap and water group or the management group. The hand sanitizer group had decrease charges of respiratory infections and missed fewer days of faculty, in comparison with the opposite two teams. Youngsters within the hand sanitizer group have been additionally much less more likely to be prescribed antibiotics for respiratory infections.

The households or day care suppliers within the hand sanitizer group went by way of 1,660 liters of hand sanitizer throughout the eight-month examine. Primarily based on this, the researchers estimated that every toddler used hand sanitizer six to eight occasions every day, on common.

There are causes to take the outcomes of this examine with a grain of salt. An excessive amount of effort and time went into reinforcing the significance of hand hygiene. Researchers visited the day care facilities each two weeks to inform tales and sing songs about germs and cleanliness. This in all probability led to ranges of hand sanitizer use that might be tough to duplicate in a real-world scenario. As nicely, some, however not all earlier research of hand sanitizer use in preschoolers have proven decrease charges of chilly and flu infections.

The researchers didn’t assess how typically the children within the handwashing group really washed their palms. It’s attainable that the higher outcomes within the hand sanitizer group have been associated to the better ease of use of hand sanitizer, in comparison with handwashing, which normally requires slightly extra effort and time.

Take-home factors

  • Hand sanitizer use in toddlers could also be related to decrease charges of respiratory infections than handwashing with cleaning soap and water alone.
  • Hand sanitizer use in all probability needs to be pretty compulsive for customers to see vital advantages.
  • Hand sanitizer ought to include 70% ethyl alcohol to reliably kill micro organism and viruses; some micro organism have proven tolerance to decrease quantities of ethyl alcohol.
  • Though there’s little high-quality proof on the advantages of hand sanitizer use locally at giant, the usage of hand sanitizer, together with handwashing and flu vaccination, is an affordable measure to cut back the chance of respiratory infections in adults in danger.

Comply with me on Twitter @JohnRossMD

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