The Efficacy of Hand Sanitizers

Giv­en their pre­val­ence in offices, hos­pit­als and phar­ma­cies (how naïve?), I would have thought the effect­ive­ness of hand san­it­izers would have been a lot great­er than it is:

In 2005, Boston-based doc­tors pub­lished the very first clin­ic­al tri­al of alco­hol-based hand san­it­izers in homes and enrolled about 300 fam­il­ies with young chil­dren in day care. For five months, half the fam­il­ies got free hand san­it­izer and a “vig­or­ous hand-hygiene” cur­riculum. But the spread of res­pir­at­ory infec­tions in homes didn’t budge. […] A Columbia Uni­ver­sity study also found no reduc­tion in com­mon infec­tions among inner-city fam­il­ies giv­en free anti­bac­teri­al hand soap, deter­gent, and clean­ing sup­plies. The same year, Uni­ver­sity of Michigan epi­demi­olo­gist Allis­on Aiello sum­mar­ized data on hand hygiene for the FDA and poin­ted out that three out of four stud­ies showed that alco­hol-based hand san­it­izers didn’t pre­vent res­pir­at­ory infec­tions. Then, in 2008, the Boston group repeated the study—this time in ele­ment­ary schools. […] Again, the rate of res­pir­at­ory infec­tions remained unchanged, though the rate of gastrointest­in­al infec­tions, which are less com­mon than res­pir­at­ory infec­tions, did fall slightly. Finally, last Octo­ber, a report ordered by the Pub­lic Health Agency of Canada con­cluded that there is no good evid­ence that vig­or­ous hand hygiene prac­tices pre­vent flu trans­mis­sion.

The final advice:

Fol­low the data and get a flu shot, wash your hands sens­ibly after using the bath­room and around meals, and stop wast­ing money on hand san­it­izers.

via Link Banana, say­ing “they could (should) have been most expli­cit on the dif­fer­ences between hand wash­ing […] and hand san­it­izers”. Seconded–I’m no longer sure where hand wash­ing fits in this pic­ture.

Note: The Wiki­pe­dia art­icle for hand san­it­izers paints them in a slightly more pos­it­ive light, but with many caveats (e.g. alco­hol con­tent and dur­a­tion of expos­ure to the pro­duct is import­ant, etc.).