The €2 handbag essential that can help keep your kids healthy this winter 3 years ago

The €2 handbag essential that can help keep your kids healthy this winter

Dreading sniffle season with its runny noses and night-disturbing coughs?

Yep, us too.

However, if you want to make sure your family stay healthy this winter, and are eager to not have your kids miss too many days of creche or school, well, then then there is a small purchase you can make that will apparently make a huge difference.

According to a study published this month in the journal Pediatrics, using hand sanitizer instead of soap can drastically cut back on how often your kids get sick.

In fact, researchers in Spain found that children who cleaned their hands with sanitizer instead of soap and water reduced their missed days of school, respiratory infections and antibiotic prescriptions.

The Spanish scientists studied 911 children up to age 3 who attended 24 day care centers in Almería, Spain. They split the children, their families and their day care centers into three groups: One group used hand sanitizer to clean hands, and one used soap and water, both with strict protocols about hygiene. A third, the control group, followed its usual hand-washing routines.

During the eight-month study period the hand sanitizer group missed 3.25 percent of days of day care, followed by the soap and water group, which missed 3.9 percent of days. The group following its usual hand-washing routine missed 4.2 percent of days.

Interestingly, the study authors also found that the soap-and-water group had a 21 percent higher risk of contracting a respiratory infection -- runny noses, congestion, coughing and sore throat, for example -- and a 31 percent higher risk of being prescribed antibiotics than those using hand sanitizer.

The main findings? There was a 23 percent reduction in respiratory infections among the students using hand sanitizer compared with those in the control group.

Speaking to CNN, Janet Haas, director of epidemiology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, was not involved in the study, but said the different techniques used by the participants are important.

"Hand-washing being a way to prevent infections is not new news anymore, for sure," she said. "We know a lot about the fact that it works. We are paying more attention now to the fact that it's not just washing your hands but how you wash your hands."

Using hand sanitizers can be a cheap and effective way of keeping germs a bay, it seems.

"There is a place for alcohol hand sanitizers, and the public may not be aware of how effective they can be," Haas said. "I think people still think of them as 'if you can't get to a sink, this is second best,' but in this study, it showed that it was better than the soap and water hand-washing for this group."