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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 Spain found that children who clean their hands with disinfectant instead of soap and water reduce days lost at school, respiratory infections and antibiotic prescriptions.
The researchers studied 911 children up to 3 years of age who attended 24 nurseries in Almería, Spain. They divided the children, their families and their day care 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 and soap and water disinfectant groups attended follow-up sessions on respiratory infections and fevers and received documentation on hand hygiene. They were also given hygiene protocols that included hand washing before and after lunch, as they arrived home and after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose, according to the study.
During the eight-month study period, the 911 students had 5,211 respiratory infections that led to 5,186 days of lost child care. The hand sanitizer group lost 3.25% of the days of the nursery, followed by the soap and water group, which lost 3.9% of the days. The group that followed their usual routine of handwashing 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% greater risk of prescribing antibiotics than those using a hand sanitizer.
There was a 23% reduction in respiratory infections among students who used hand sanitizer compared to those in the control group.
“I think the main contribution of this document is its focus on really small children in day care,” said Dr. Don Goldmann , medical director and emeritus scientist of the Institute for the Improvement of Health Care. “I think this is based on 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 beginning to end twice” while you wash your hands with water and you apply soap It is suggested to lather the back 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 they are 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 pointed out that safety should be considered when used with children of this age.
“They should be used with supervision,” Haas said, “because the warning here is that you can not have small children, because they can put it in their mouths and possibly get intoxicated with alcohol.”