Hand sanitizers banned in schools?
© 2011 Roy Benaroch, MD
Shannon heard some odd news: “My daughter’s teacher informed me today that the CDC won’t allow them to use hand sanitizer at school? What’s up with that? I thought it would be a useful and a more effective killer of cold and flu germs so I’d think it’d be their ‘weapon’ of choice against such things. In addition, it doesn’t require a sink or paper towels.”
I assigned my crack research department to investigate this, and I don’t know what the school is talking about. The CDC recommends hand sanitizer as a way to control infections here and here, and specifically recommend hand sanitizers for use in schools as a way to control influenza. They even considered hand sanitizer a reasonable step in limiting exposure to a rabid bat at a school in Montana.
I could find no material from the CDC recommending against hand sanitizers at school. Perhaps the school was reacting to news about prison inmates abusing hand sanitizer to get drunk. They were caught with their hands clean.
We do know that hand sanitizers aren’t always as effective as good old soap and water. They won’t kill the spores of C. difficile (an intestinal infection often associated with hospitalized patients), and are ineffective at decontaminating visibly soiled hands. But as a back-up, especially when soap and water are unavailable, hand sanitizers can decrease the transmission of infections in schools, homes, and hospitals. Shannon, tell the school to stop making excuses and encourage the kids to wash their hands and use sanitizers to stay healthy!