Is hand sanitizer better at preventing the flu than soap and water?

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Frequent use of hand sanitizer, as a substitute of cleaning soap and water, might result in fewer respiratory infections, fewer sick days, and fewer antibiotic use — not less than should you’re a toddler. A Spanish examine enrolled 911 youngsters who attended day care, from newborns as much as three-year-olds, and randomly assigned them to certainly one of three teams.

Within the management group, dad and mom and caregivers continued traditional hand take care of the toddlers. Within the two intervention teams, youngsters have been assigned to both labor-intensive hand sanitizer use or cleaning soap and water handwashing. Mother and father and caregivers have been instructed to both apply hand sanitizer or wash the toddlers’ palms after they arrived on the classroom within the morning; earlier than and after lunch; after taking part in 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 obligatory 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 college, in comparison with the opposite two teams. Youngsters within the hand sanitizer group have been additionally much less prone 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 through the eight-month examine. Primarily based on this, the researchers estimated that every toddler used hand sanitizer six to eight instances every day, on common.

There are causes to take the outcomes of this examine with a grain of salt. Quite a lot 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 most likely 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 youngsters within the handwashing group truly washed their palms. It’s potential that the higher outcomes within the hand sanitizer group have been associated to the higher ease of use of hand sanitizer, in comparison with handwashing, which normally requires a little bit 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 most likely needs to be pretty compulsive for customers to see important advantages.
  • Hand sanitizer ought to comprise 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 in the neighborhood at giant, using hand sanitizer, together with handwashing and flu vaccination, is an affordable measure to cut back the danger of respiratory infections in adults in danger.

Comply with me on Twitter @JohnRossMD

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