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.