By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor Telegraph.co.uk 24 Aug 2010
Researchers found illness rates were reduced when workers were given sanitising hand gels and instructed to use them five times a day.
The gels are widely used in hospitals to prevent the spread of infections
Compared with those who followed their usual hand hygiene habits, the workers with the gels were off less frequently with colds, fever, coughs and diarrhoea.
Over one year it was found that days off for colds were cut by 65 per cent, fever by 62 per cent, cough by more than half and diarrhoea by 89 per cent.
The study involving 129 people, was published in the journal BioMed Central Infectious Diseases.
Reports of sickness while at work were also reduced.
Lead author Nils-Olaf Hübner, of the Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine, in Greifswald, Germany, wrote in the research paper: “Hand disinfection can easily be introduced and maintained as part of the daily hand hygiene, acting as an interesting and cost-efficient method of improving workforce health and effectiveness.
“It could be shown, that hand disinfection has a reducing influence on the number of episodes of illness for the majority of the registered symptoms, with the strongest effects for common cold, coughing, fever and diarrhoea.
“On average, participants of the intervention group who used alcoholic hand disinfection at their workplace declared less illness episodes and therefore more symptom-free months during the year in comparison with the control group.
“This confirms data from other authors that the use of hand disinfection leads to interruptions of transmission chains which results in fewer illness episodes.”