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Reports & Research

October 20, 2018
By Lewis First, MD, MS, and Editor in Chief of Pediatrics

Study Finds Hand Hygiene for Kids is Nothing to Sneeze At

With winter coming and children spending more and more time indoors playing together, spread of viral infections is certain to occur. Perhaps nowhere are the risks greater for such spread than in childcare centers where young children are in close contact with each other for most of the day. Given the many developmental benefits of a good childcare program, the risk of infection should not be a deterrent, especially if staff and in turn children are well trained in proper hand hygiene to lower the risk of infection.

But can one actually reduce the rate of infections in childcare centers with hand hygiene, and if so what type of hand hygiene (alcohol-based hand sanitizer versus soap and water) works best?

Authors Azor-Martinez et al. (10.1542/peds.2018-1245) opted to answer this question by performing a randomized cluster trial involving more than 900 children ages 0-3 years in 24 daycare centers in Spain.  The authors randomized the centers into three groups after childcare providers and parents in all centers in this study got an educational talk on hand hygiene.

One group was then taught by protocol handwashing using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with the dispensers also sent home to be used under parental supervision. A second group got a regular soap dispenser and a protocol on soap and water handwashing to be done at the center and at home, and the third group was told to do routine hand washing.

During an eight-month follow-up period, the investigators gathered data on the incidence of respiratory infections and numbers of days missed attending the childcare center. So what happened?

During the follow-up period, statistically fewer respiratory infections, days missed, and fewer antibiotic prescriptions were noted in the centers that used the hand-sanitizer protocol compared to the control group.  It is interesting to note that the centers that used the routine soap and water protocol had a higher risk of respiratory infections compared to the control group. Why is this?

The authors offer an explanation in their discussion of their findings that is well worth your linking to this study, given that there is much more to this study than briefly described in this blog.  We have to lend a hand, a clean hand, to the investigators for designing an alcohol-based hand sanitizer program that is quite generalizable to other centers and worth sharing with the centers in your community. If you want to see fewer acute visits for viral infections this winter, come clean and read this study to learn more.

Source: Pediatrics blog

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