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Pass the Bottle: Hand Sanitizer Is More Effective For Kids Than Soap and Water, Study Says

Instead of heading to the sink to wash their hands, your kids might be better off reaching for a bottle of hand sanitizer. A new study published today in the journal Pediatrics suggests that children that wash their hands with hand sanitizer rather than soap and water missed fewer days of school, had fewer respiratory infections, and needed fewer antibiotic prescriptions than their peers that washed their hands using soap and water.

Conducted in Spain, the study looked at 911 kids aged 3 and under that attended daycare centers. Kids were broken into three groups, one that used hand sanitizer, one that used soap and water, and one that just continued using their own hand washing routines. All there groups also attended hygiene workshops, although the first two groups attended an additional session on respiratory infections and fevers associated with hygiene, CNN reports.

During the 8-month study, the group had 5,211 respiratory infections. The study found that the soap and water group had a 21% higher risk of contracting respiratory infections and a 31% higher chance of being prescribed antibiotics than the hand sanitizer group.

That doesn’t mean you should always reach for that hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers aren’t effective if your hands are actually dirty, you’ll still need soap and water to get rid of that grime. Some sanitizers, specifically those that contain triclosan or triclocarban, have also been linked to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in some parts of the globe.