Young children receive lots of care, nurturing, and learning from their child care centers. Unfortunately, they are often exposed to many germs and acquire illnesses when they attend these centers as well.
It is known that children attending child care centers have an increased risk of infections. As reported in Pediatrics, researchers in Spain recently investigated that public health issue by conducting a study to examine the effectiveness of educational and hand hygiene programs that include alcohol-based hand sanitizer in children zero to three years old enrolled in child care centers at least 15 hours per week. The researchers looked at 52 centers, each with an average of 50 children; a very well-powered study.
Participants were divided into three groups and interventions were applied to the children, caregivers, and parents:
- Control group = normal handwashing procedures
- Hand washing Intervention group = non-antimicrobial hand soap
- Hand sanitizer Intervention group = 70% ethanol-based hand sanitizer
All three groups received education via a 1-hour presentation to parents and staff about handwashing practices and hand sanitizer use.
Both intervention groups had the products installed at the child care center and a supply for family use at their home. They had to follow hand hygiene protocol in the following circumstances: after coming into the classroom; before and after lunch; after playing outside; when they went home; after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their noses; and after diapering. These groups received informational brochures and additional training sessions on respiratory infections and fevers. In addition, the research assistant and the center staff performed activities, including stories, songs, and posters in the classrooms, regarding hand hygiene and infection transmission every two weeks.
The researchers found the hand sanitizer group achieved the following significant results:
- Approximately a 30% reduction in antibiotic prescriptions,
- Approximately a 23% reduction in respiratory infections, and
- A lower number of days absent due to respiratory infections.
The significant differences in the respiratory infection rates and antibiotic prescriptions were observed during winter and spring months when rates were higher overall. The authors concluded hand sanitizer and educational measures for child care center staff, parents, and children reduce absenteeism, respiratory infections, and antibiotic prescriptions.1
While there is already so much for child care staff to teach our young children, let’s be sure to add hand hygiene programs that use hand sanitizer, wherever children are, so we can all stay healthier this year.
Read the full study from Pediatrics.