Sanitiser dispensers to keep hands germ free in classrooms don’t reduce the amount of school absences, say researchers.
The rate of absences were similar among schools which implemented classroom sanitisers and those that did not, with sanitisers not reducing the levels of any specific type of illness, including colds or gastro.
The study, led by Patricia Priest and colleagues from the University of Otago and published in the journal PLOS Medicine, looked at 68 city primary schools in New Zealand.
Hand washing is recommended by health authorities globally as the most effective cold and flu prevention strategy.
In the New Zealand study, the children received a 30-minute in-class hand hygiene education session.
The researchers found that the provision of a hand sanitiser did not reduce the number of absences due to a specific illness (respiratory or gastrointestinal), the length of illness and length of absence from school, or the number of episodes in which at least one other family member became ill.
When using school attendance records from all children in the participating schools, the number of absences for any reason and length of absence episode did not differ between the intervention and control schools.
The researchers point to limitations to the study.
The trial was undertaken during an influenza epidemic and public health messages about good hand washing may have increased hygiene among all the children in the study.
The authors say: “The provision of hand sanitisers in addition to usual hand hygiene in primary schools in New Zealand did not prevent disease of severity sufficient to cause school absence.”