The use of hand-sanitisers in classrooms did not reduce
school sick leave in children, Dunedin-led research published
in an academic journal found.
The study, led by Associate Prof Patricia Priest, of the
Dunedin School of Medicine's department of preventive and
social medicine and involving 68 primary schools in Dunedin,
Invercargill, and Christchurch, has been published in PLOS
A Dunedin principal involved in the study told the Otago
Daily Times yesterday it prompted the school to
permanently install the hand sanitisers, and the findings
would not change his decision.
Over two winter terms in 2009, schools in the tested group
used sanitisers installed in the classroom.
They were asked to use them after coughing or sneezing, and
on the way out of the classroom for morning break or lunch.
Researchers measured absences in the group using an
alcohol-based steriliser, compared with a control group.
Children in both groups were given a 30-minute lesson on
In the 2443 children whose caregivers were asked about their
absences, the rate of absence was similar across both groups.
''Moreover, among these children, 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
The researchers warned the study's finding could be skewed by
the fact it was undertaken during a flu pandemic, when public
health messages about hand-washing were prominent.
Just how much the public health campaign affected the study
findings was unknown, Prof Priest told the Otago Daily
''You have to decide how likely you think it is that the
messaging that was going on at the time would significantly
and in a sustained way increase children's hand-washing in a
way that would reduce their illnesses to a point where there
was no further benefit [from hand sanitiser].''
Green Island School principal Steve Hayward said the school
kept the dispensers after taking part in the 2009 research,
and they believed it had reduced absences.
''We thought it was so valuable, we've carried it on.''
For Mr Hayward, the main thing was getting the children into
the habit of sterilising their hands, which was especially
important if they had forgotten to wash them.