A new study by researchers at Children's Hospital Boston looked at the theory that disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers would reduce illness-related student absenteeism. The researchers found some very encouraging results.
"The best ways to avoid common infections are cleaning your hands and preventing exposure to the germs that cause these illnesses. Our research indicates that elementary schools should consider a few simple infection control practices to help keep students healthier," said Dr. Thomas Sandora, a paediatric infectious diseases specialist at Children's Hospital Boston.
He revealed that the study was actually a randomised, controlled trial involving 285 third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students in an elementary school system in Avon, Ohio.
During the study, the researchers used disinfecting wipes on student desks, and the students used hand sanitizer in the classroom at key points throughout the school day.
Control classrooms, on the other hand, followed usual hand washing and cleaning procedures.
The researchers tracked the frequency of absences, and the reasons for missing school for a period of eight weeks.
They also tested several classroom surfaces for total bacterial counts, and for the presence of several common viruses.
It was found that absenteeism rates for gastrointestinal illnesses were nine per cent lower in classrooms that followed the infection control regimen of disinfecting surfaces, and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
The absenteeism rate for respiratory illness was not affected by the intervention.
Based on their observations, the researchers came to the conclusion that it would be better if all schools considered adopting simple infection control practices like disinfecting desktops once a day, and using hand sanitizer before and after lunch so as to reduce days lost to common illnesses.