Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel significantly reduces the spread of gastrointestinal infections in the home. Out of the 292 families studied, half of the families, which used the hand sanitizer in gel form, had a 59 % reduction in the spread of illness related to the gastrointestinal tract.
Families already using hand sanitizer were excluded from the study. Half the families were randomly assigned to receive hand sanitizer and educational materials on hand hygiene. They were told to place bottles of the gel around the house, including bathroom, kitchen and baby's room, and to apply it to their hands after using the toilet, before preparing food, after diaper changes, etc. The remaining families, serving as controls, received only materials about nutrition, and were asked not to use hand sanitizer. The two groups reported similar rates of hand washing on an initial questionnaire.
The families given hand sanitizer had a 59 percent lower incidence of secondary GI illnesses as compared with the control group. In addition, families reporting higher amounts sanitizer usage (indicating 4-5 uses per day) were about 20 percent less likely to transmit respiratory illnesses, but this effect didn't reach statistical significance.
A lot of other studies have revealed a protective effect against respiratory illness among families who used hand sanitizer gels at their own initiative.
Although hand washing with soap and water is effective in reducing the spread of most infections, it requires access to a sink. The alcohol-based gels, widely available in stores, do not require water and rapidly kill most bacteria and viruses on the skin.
They are a convenient alternative for busy parents who are unable to get to a sink while caring for sick children.
Simple practices like hand washing using an alcohol based sanitizer can go a long way in preventing major diseases. This holds especially valuable in a nuclear family setup where the amount of attention given to health and hygiene is often lacking.