Classroom Hand Sanitizers Don’t Curb Absences

Placing hand sanitizer dispensers in classrooms doesn’t reduce student absences, according to new research.

The study included children in 68 New Zealand primary schools who received a 30-minute lesson in hand hygiene. In addition, some of the schools had alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers installed in the classrooms over two winters. Students were asked to use the dispensers after coughing or sneezing and on the way out of the classroom for lunch or recess.

Rates of student absences due to any illness were similar whether the classrooms had hand sanitizer dispensers or not, according to the study published Aug. 12 in the journal PLoS Medicine.

“The provision of hand sanitizers in addition to usual hand hygiene in primary schools in New Zealand did not prevent disease of severity sufficient to cause school absence,” wrote Patricia Priest and colleagues from the University of Otago, New Zealand.

While the findings suggest that installing hand sanitizer dispensers in classrooms provides little benefit, there were some limitations to the study, the researchers noted.

For example, the study was conducted during a flu epidemic, which means that public health messages about good hand hygiene may have boosted hand hygiene among all children and limited the effect of the hand sanitizer dispensers.