Now that school is back in session you may have noticed your child coming home from school with more than their homework. The dreaded 'back to school' cold has already visited many households, and now with flu season quickly approaching it's time for parents to fully arm themselves with all resources available to help keep kids healthy this winter.
Flu shots and extra vitamin C are definitely a necessity during cold and flu and back to school season, and now a new study is suggesting that you stock up on hand sanitizer as well. While most parents and teachers encourage frequent hand washing with soap and water to help limit the spread of germs, this study shows that children who use hand sanitizer missed fewer days of school and had fewer sick days than those who didn't.
Lots of parents stock up on hand sanitizer for those times when kids aren't necessarily able to wash their hands, but this study, conducted by researchers in Spain wondered if hand sanitizer was actually more effective than hand washing. They studed a group of children under the age of three who were enrolled in daycare centers and published their findings in the Journal Pediatrics after noting an increase in respiratory infections in children who attend daycare.
The study found that children who used hand sanitizer were 23 % less likely to develop a respiratory infection than the children in the control group, and those who used soap and water plus hand sanitizer were even less likely to become sick. The study also found that those who used hand sanitizer were absent less days from daycare and required less medical attention, which means parents also need to take fewer days off from work to care for sick kids.
Janet Haas, the director of epidemiology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York who was not involved in the study, told CNN the different techniques used by the participants are important. "Hand-washing being a way to prevent infections is not new news anymore, for sure," she said. "We know a lot about the fact that it works. We are paying more attention now to the fact that it's not just washing your hands but how you wash your hands."
"There is a place for alcohol hand sanitizers, and the public may not be aware of how effective they can be," Haas said. "I think people still think of them as 'if you can't get to a sink, this is second best,' but in this study, it showed that it was better than the soap and water hand-washing for this group."
While hand sanitizer may be effective in keeping the germs away, parents do need to exercise caution when their children use it. "They have to be used with supervision," Haas told CNN, "because the caveat here is that you can't have little kids putting that in their mouth and possibly getting alcohol intoxication." The alcohol and scents used in some hand sanitizers can also cause issues for some children.
While parents do need to educate their children on how to properly use hand sanitizer, it definitely looks like it can be very effective in keeping germs at bay this cold and flu season.