Comparing hand washing to hand sanitizers in reducing elementary school students' absenteeism

Pediatr Nurs. 2007 Jul-Aug;33(4):368-72.


Purpose: To compare the efficacy of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to standard hand washing in reducing illness and subsequent absenteeism in school-age children.

Method: A randomized cross-over design was used with 18 classrooms of 2nd and 3rd grade students (n = 383) from 4 elementary schools. Half of the classes from each school used an anti-microbial gel hand sanitizer while the other half used soap and water for regular hand hygiene for 2 months, then, the students switched cleaning methods for the following 2 months.

Results: No significant differences in absenteeism rates were demonstrated. A follow-up focus group comprised of teachers and school nurses indicated that hand sanitizers were preferred over soap and water.

Conclusion: Hand sanitizers are an appropriate alternative to hand washing for hand cleansing and may offer additional benefits in the school setting.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / administration & dosage*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • Child
  • Choice Behavior
  • Clinical Nursing Research
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Focus Groups
  • Gels
  • Hand Disinfection / methods*
  • Health Education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Qualitative Research
  • School Nursing
  • Soaps / administration & dosage*
  • Students* / psychology
  • Students* / statistics & numerical data


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Gels
  • Soaps