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Washing hands of drying gels

A reader wonders about the effectiveness of hand sanitisers in childcare centres.

QUESTION:

My question concerns the use of hand sanitiser for infection control in childcare.

There is a pump pack of antibacterial gel by the door of our centre. Parents are encouraged to rub the gel on to their hands and their child’s hands as they come and go.

We are told this is to “keep the germs out of the centre and for families not to take germs home”.

I must admit I haven’t been doing this, for two reasons. I find these gels very drying and I suffer from eczema. Secondly, I expect it doesn’t do much good.

Does the evidence support this practice?

ANSWER:

Good hygiene is important to stop the spread of diseases. A review of the research, soon to be published by the Joanna Briggs Institute in Adelaide, supports the use of hand sanitisers as a supplement or alternative to soap and water hand washing in these types of settings.

Hand sanitisers are convenient and easy to use and have been shown to reduce infections (respiratory and gastrointestinal infectious diseases) and absences (from school/child care) due to infectious illness.

However, skin irritation has been shown to be a side-effect of both hand sanitisers and soap.

If you suffer from eczema any of these products can be drying, so finding the right product for you – whether a soap or a hand gel – is important, but both are just as effective from a hygiene perspective.

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