Is Hand Sanitizer Better than Washing with Soap?

A recent study in Spain found that children that used hand sanitizer missed fewer days of school for colds than children who just washed their hands with soap and water. Check out the full article but here’s a brief takeaway:

Researchers in Spain found that children who cleaned their hands with sanitizer instead of soap and water reduced their missed days of school, respiratory infections and antibiotic prescriptions. …

During the eight-month study period, the 911 students had 5,211 respiratory infections that led to 5,186 missed days of day care. The hand sanitizer group missed 3.25% of days of day care, followed by the soap and water group, which missed 3.9% of days. The group following its usual hand-washing routine missed 4.2% of days.

If you read the article you’ll see that all three groups received “training” on hand washing. The thing is that the students were 3 years old. So, I think that they’ll just do whatever the daycare teachers tell them to do. Only the hand sanitizer group and the hand washing group had follow up lessons. For me the take away isn’t just that hand sanitizer seems to be slightly more effective at keeping kids healthy than normal washing, it’s that lessons on hand washing and follow ups work to reduce illness in daycares.

I wash when I can before/after meals and after using the restroom. I like to wash my hands first thing when I get home too. I keep a big bottle of hand sanitizer in my office at work to use after meetings (shaking hands) or after coughs or sneezes.

This fall and winter it may be a good idea for you to get a bottle or two too. This jug of Purell will probably last you all winter.