Use of Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Reduces Respiratory Illness in Families

MORRIS PLAINS, N.J. -- Three new research studies published in the current editions of leading medical journals demonstrate that using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is associated with a reduction of reported illness.

The first study, published in the April edition of Pediatrics, found that use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer was associated with a reduction in the transmission of respiratory illness in families with children in day care. A second study published in Pediatrics concluded that there was a significant association between the regular use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers and decreased risk of gastrointestinal illness in hospitalized children undergoing elective surgery. A third study, published in the April edition of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guideline that alcohol-based hand sanitizers should be used in healthcare settings to prevent the spread of infection.

"Consistent with previous findings, these studies suggest that alcohol-based instant hand sanitizers may play an important role in preventing the transmission of infectious diseases," said Qing Li, director of dermatology, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. Pfizer Consumer Healthcare markets Purell® Instant Hand Sanitizer products. Pfizer did not sponsor or provide product for the reported studies.

The research on families reported in Pediatrics was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Boards of Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. It studied 208 families in the Boston, Mass., area with at least one child between 6 months and 5 years old enrolled in day care. Children frequently contract respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses in day care settings, and then may infect their families with the illnesses through hand contact at home.

The study found a strong association between the frequent use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers and a decreased rate of secondary transmission of respiratory illness.

In a Reuters story on the study, the lead author, Grace Lee, MD, MPH, of the Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston, said, "Close attention to hand hygiene is important for preventing the spread of colds and stomach flu in the home. Alcohol-based hand gels can be a part of that."

The second study reported in Pediatrics on hospitalized children found an association between the access of healthcare workers to alcohol-based hand sanitizers and fewer gastrointestinal infections in their patients. The study included data from 31 children's hospitals and more than 48,000 patients and was conducted by the Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, Wash.

The research reported in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is equivalent to hand washing with a traditional antiseptic detergent with respect to decreasing infection rates in neonatal intensive care units, but the hand sanitizer is better tolerated. Referring to the CDC guideline that calls for the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers in healthcare settings, the study author Elaine Larson, RN, PhD, of the Columbia University School of Nursing, as reported to Reuters Health, said, "We confirm that (the CDC guideline) warrants widespread application."

Headquartered in New York City, Pfizer Inc. discovers, develops, manufactures and markets leading prescription medicines for humans and animals and many consumer brands. Headquartered in Morris Plains, N.J., Pfizer Consumer Healthcare is the world's second-largest consumer healthcare company, with a portfolio of market-leading brands that also includes Listerine®, Neosporin®, Benadryl®, Sudafed®, Visine® and Rogaine®.

Source: Pfizer Inc.

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