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Effect of Hand Sanitizer Use on Elementary School Absenteeism

This school study demonstrates a significant reduction in absenteeism when an alcohol gel hand sanitizer is used in the classroom as part of a hand hygiene program

Hammond, Brian
Ali, Yusuf PhD
Fendler, Eleanor PhD
Dolan, Michael
Donovan, Sandra RN, MSN

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.

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.

Table 1 summarizes the demography of the students:

Table 1
School District Number of Students Grades

Number of Students in PURELL Group

Number of Students in Control Group

Cuyahoga Falls, OH

2,576 K-5



Hudson, OH


2 and 3



Wilmington, DE

223 3 and 4



Athens, TN

1,272 K-6



Irvine, CA

1,191 K-5




6,080 K-6



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.

Table 2 demonstrates the overall reduction in absenteeism:

Table 2

School District

Percent Difference - Over Control Statistical Significance


19.76% Yes

Cuyahoga Falls, OH

32.96% Yes

Hudson, OH



Wilmington, DE

7.87% No

Athens, TN

1,272 Yes

Irvine, CA

1,191 No

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.

Am J Infect Control. 2000; 28: 340-346

Read the article abstract (publisher's agent site)

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1. 2008 SDA Clean Hands Report Card® sponsored by the Soap and Detergent Association

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