May 15, 2009

Improving Children’s Hygiene Prevents Spread of Disease

While officials advocate against unnecessary travel and other measures that would seemingly protect individuals from the spread of the new H1N1 virus, children's hygiene, the most important precaution is being largely ignored, Reuters reported.

Tom Jefferson of the Cochrane Library accounted a review based on findings of more than 50 studies that suggested encouraging frequent and thorough hand-washing in children is most effective. 

"I don't really understand why some governments are obsessed with popping pills and giving injections," Jefferson said in a telephone interview.
"The evidence is clear," he insisted. "Hand washing offers protection against a lot of things, not just respiratory viruses."

The collaborative review of the world's published studies proposed that washing hands often, using gloves, gowns and masks with filtration, as well as isolation of ailing persons all help to minimize the spread of viral respiratory diseases. 

The study also indicated that the best effort one can take against the spread of disease is to concentrate on children, not adults, Jefferson informed. 

"The main thing is if you teach children to wash their hands in schools, that is the biggest benefit to the whole of society," he said.

A large study conducted with the participation of 4,332 Pakistani children of poor families, found that children who practiced hand-washing with soap several times daily reported 50 percent fewer occurrences of sickness like pneumonia or cough than those who did not. 

"One of the explanations we found is that children are the most sociable beings and have the most physical contacts between people," Jefferson said.

Health officials have diligently searched for ways to control the H1N1 virus that has already taken the lives of at least 65 people in 33 different countries, and put the world on edge for a potential pandemic. 

And while quarantines, travel restrictions, school closures and facemasks have all been put to practice, teaching children healthy hygiene practices is still the most effective. 

Jefferson encourages teachers and daycare providers to do their part in warding off the spread of infection.

"If you enforce these kinds of hygienic measures in schools that is where the best benefits are," Jefferson said.

According to another study, when children washed their hands with alcohol gels, absenteeism dropped 43 percent. Other findings revealed that pre-school age children who were taught frequent hand-washing at home or school were considerably less likely to get sick with a respiratory illness. 


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