Hand Sanitizers Do Not Improve School Attendance Among Children, Study

By , UniversityHerald Reporter

Installation of alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers in the classrooms does not result in lower rates of school absenteeism in children, according to a study by the University of Otago, New Zealand.

For the study, the researchers selected 68 city primary schools in New Zealand and randomly assigned them to either the intervention or control group. They then measured the rate of absence in children attending the participating schools.

All children participated in a 30-minute hand hygiene education session. And in schools assigned to the intervention group, alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers were installed in the classrooms during two winter terms. Here, children were asked to use the dispensers after coughing or sneezing and on their way out of the classroom for morning break or lunch.

The researchers found that the rate of absence in children was the same in both groups - control and intervention. Among children with the provision of a hand sanitizer, the number of absences due to a specific illness (respiratory or gastrointestinal) was not lowered. The length of illness and absence from school, and the number of episodes in which at least one other family member fell sick was similar across all schools.

As a result, the study suggests that hand sanitizer in classrooms may not be an effective way to reduce child-to-child transmission of infectious diseases in high income countries.

"The provision of hand sanitizers in addition to usual hand hygiene in primary schools in New Zealand did not prevent disease of severity sufficient to cause school absence," the researchers said in a press release.

The researchers said that there are some limitations to this study. For example: the study was conducted during an influenza epidemic. Therefore, influenza-related public-health messages about good hand hygiene may have increased hand hygiene among all the children in the study and compromised any effectiveness of the intervention.

The finding is published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

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