Blocking transmission of respiratory viruses is an important part of halting spread of disease if an epidemic breaks out.
Using barriers such as simple face masks and gloves, isolating people known to be infected are also useful means of containing respiratory viruses.
This conclusion came after a multinational team of Cochrane Researchers combed many databases for scientific studies and found 51 that fitted their inclusion criteria.
"There is a strong indication that introducing hygienic measures around younger children can be a very powerful way of blocking spread, protecting them and the community they live in," says lead researcher Professor Tom Jefferson from Rome, Italy.
The team also concluded that there was little if any evidence that expensive and uncomfortable N95 masks were any better than simple surgical masks. They were also left uncertain about whether adding chemicals that kill bacteria and viruses to soap made them any more effective at preventing transmission than normal soap.
"Many simple and probably low-cost interventions could help reduce transmission of epidemic respiratory viruses," says Jefferson.