• Hang That Hand Sanitizer on Your Child's Bag. Make Sure He Uses It!

    Hand sanitizers are probably the best thing if your child can't regularly wash his hands.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Hang That Hand Sanitizer on Your Child's Bag. Make Sure He Uses It!
PHOTO BY iStock
  • If you’re one of those parents who love buying cute hand sanitizers and putting them in your child’s bag, then congratulations! You are making him healthier and keeping him from missing out on school, according to a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics.

    Hand washing is still the best, of course, and it is “more effective than any single vaccine” when it comes to preventing diseases. But we all know hand washing isn't always convenient, and you can't rely on toddlers to always do a good job. So take comfort in this new research from Spain, which found that children who cleaned their hands with sanitizer instead of soap and water reduced their missed days of school, respiratory infections, and antibiotic prescriptions.

    Researchers studied a total of 911 children up to age 3 who attended daycare for eight months. The kids, their families, and their daycare staff were split into three groups: one group used hand sanitizer to clean hands and one used soap and water. Both of these groups were given strict rules about hygiene. The third group followed its usual hand-washing routines.

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    Hand sanitizers can reduce sickness

    After the study period, they found that the hand sanitizer group missed 3.25% of days of daycare while the soap and water group missed 3.9% of the days. The third group had the most number of missed school days at 4.2%.

    While the numbers are close to each other, researchers also found that those who used soap and water had a 21% higher risk of contracting a respiratory infection like runny noses, coughing, and sore throat. They also had a 31% higher risk of being prescribed antibiotics to treat these infections.

    On the other hand, the hand sanitizer group reduced contracting respiratory infections by 23%, compared with the third group who were permitted to do their usual hand washing routines.

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    “I think that the main contribution of this paper is its focus on really young children in daycare,” Dr. Don Goldman, chief medical and scientific officer emeritus at the Institute of Healthcare Improvement in the US, told CNN. “I think this does build on previous literature to support the notion that you can reduce the spread of respiratory tract infections in really young kids if you use alcohol hand sanitizer.”

    So while hand sanitizers do help in making your child less sick, you still need to choose the right formula. According to the study, those in the hand sanitizers group used sanitizers with 70% ethyl alcohol. The US Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) also say that the best ones contain a minimum of 60% alcohol — an alcohol-based sanitizer is the best option to go for if soap and water for handwashing are not readily available. It is also the advice of the World Health Organization against the spread of infection.

    It’s also how you wash your hands that can really make a difference. The University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health says that the hand sanitizer liquid that you dispense should be enough to cover all the surfaces of both hands “including between your fingers and up around your fingertips and nails.” This would kill most bacteria and viruses on contact. However, the CDC does note that “hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.”

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    It’s also important that you teach your kids how to dry their hands properly after using hand sanitizers. “It should take about 30 seconds of rubbing your hands together for the product to completely dry. Do not touch food or anything else until your hands are completely dry,” said Berkeley Wellness, the school’s health resource site.

    The CDC recommends washing hands before eating food and after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing. They should also wash after using the toilet, after touching an animal or its toys, leash, and waste, and after playing outside. It’s an important list that parents should teach their children, along with proper hygiene. When it comes to your child’s health, after all, you can never be too cautious.

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