Objective To undertake a systematic review and meta-analysis to establish the effectiveness of handwashing in reducing absence and/or the spread of respiratory tract (RT) and/or gastrointestinal (GI) infection among school-aged children and/or staff in educational settings.
Design Randomised-controlled trials (RCTs).
Setting Schools and other settings with a formal educational component in any country.
Patients Children aged 3–11 years, and/or staff working with them.
Intervention Interventions with a hand hygiene component.
Main outcome measures Incidence of RT or GI infections or symptoms related to such infections; absenteeism; laboratory results of RT and/or GI infections.
Results Eighteen cluster RCTs were identified; 13 school-based, 5 in child day care facilities or preschools. Studies were heterogeneous and had significant quality issues including small numbers of clusters and participants and inadequate randomisation. Individual study results suggest interventions may reduce children's absence, RT infection incidence and symptoms, and laboratory confirmed influenza-like illness. Evidence of impact on GI infection or symptoms was equivocal.
Conclusions Studies are generally not well executed or reported. Despite updating existing systematic reviews and identifying new studies, evidence of the effect of hand hygiene interventions on infection incidence in educational settings is mostly equivocal but they may decrease RT infection among children. These results update and add to knowledge about this crucial public health issue in key settings with a vulnerable population. More robust, well reported cluster RCTs which learn from existing studies, are required.
- Infectious Diseases
- School Health
This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.
This web only file has been produced by the BMJ Publishing Group from an electronic file supplied by the author(s) and has not been edited for content.
- Data supplement 1 - Online supplement
- Data supplement 2 - Online supplement