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Posted on June 15, 2009 

Washing kids’ hands can keep everyone healthy

Some people are going to fairly great lengths to avoid infection with H1N1 influenza. But a review of scientific evidence published Tuesday shows the best way to curb respiratory illnesses is to keep little hands clean. Very little hands. And very clean.

Scientists at the Cochrane Library, which reviews research results, looked at 51 studies of ways to contain respiratory virus epidemics. Frequent hand washing; using gloves, gowns and masks with filtration; and isolating sick people were all found to be effective. But children’s hygiene had the biggest effect.

One large study involved 4,332 children in Pakistan. Those who washed their hands several times a day with soap had 50% fewer episodes of respiratory illness than children with standard hygiene practices. Another study found those who used alcohol hand gels plus hand washing had a 43% lower absenteeism rate.

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