Background: Several studies have indicated a connection between handwashing and illness-related absenteeism in school settings. The difficulty of ensuring consistent and effective handwashing among student populations has also been noted. The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of the use of an alcohol gel hand sanitizer in the classroom to help decrease the illness-related absentee rate for elementary school students.
Methods: This study involved 5 individual school districts, 16 individual schools, and more than 6000 students in Delaware, Ohio, Tennessee, and California. Individual schools in each district were paired into product and control groups. In the product group schools, an alcohol gel hand sanitizer was used by the students and staff when entering and leaving the classroom. Absenteeism due to infection was recorded, and the data were statistically analyzed.
Results: The overall reduction in absenteeism due to infection in the schools included in this study was 19.8% for schools that used an alcohol gel hand sanitizer compared with the control schools (P <.05). Data from the school system with the largest teacher population (n = 246) showed that teacher absenteeism decreased 10.1% (trend) in the schools where sanitizer was used.
Conclusion: Elementary school absenteeism due to infection is significantly reduced when an alcohol gel hand sanitizer is used in the classroom as part of a hand hygiene program.