The impact of common infections on school absenteeism during an academic year

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Abstract

Background:

School absenteeism because of infections is one of the most important problems facing both public and private primary schools. The aim of the study was to assess the impact of infections on school absenteeism and their reduction with a handwashing program using hand sanitizer.

Methods:

The study was an 8-month-long, randomized, controlled open study (N = 1,609 children, aged 4–12 years old) at 5 state schools in Almeria (Spain). The experimental group (EG) washed their hands with soap and water, complemented with the use of hand sanitizer, and the control group (CG) followed the usual handwashing procedure. The total number of episodes and days missed as well as those because of upper respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infections were compared in both groups with a Z-test.

Results:

The students were absent 12,386 days in 7,945 episodes. The incidence of total absent episodes and percent of missed days, including those because of upper respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infections, were significantly lower in the EG than the CG (P < .001), and this was maintained through the flu pandemic period.

Conclusion:

School absenteeism because of infections in schools is reduced when a hand hygiene program utilizing sanitizing gels is properly carried out, especially during the flu season.

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