FRIDAY, June 17, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Use of a glowing gel that reveals microscopic germs on the skin may help children improve their hand hygiene, according to new research.
The researchers said their findings, published in the June issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, could have a lasting impact on efforts to reduce the spread of communicable disease.
"We found that using the gel alone to illustrate the areas of hands that may not be getting clean, even without verbal education, improves children's hand hygiene," said the study's principal investigator, Dr. Mary Groll of Northwestern University Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, in a journal news release.
For the study, researchers asked 60 children waiting in an emergency room to apply Glo Germ Gel to their hands. The kids then placed their hands under a black light, which highlighted any dirt or bacteria with a yellow glow. Next, the children were asked to wash their hands with soap and water before placing them back under the black light. Based on the before and after results, researchers scored the kids' hand hygiene.
"Waiting for the doctor is usually a tiresome and unproductive experience, but we were able to turn the waiting room into an interactive education center to help kids improve their hand hygiene," said the study's lead author, Dr. Anna Fishbein, a physician and researcher at Children's Memorial Hospital in the news release.
Following the test, about half the children received a brief lesson in proper hand-washing techniques, such as washing for at least 20 seconds, cleaning between fingers and washing finger nails. The other children received no additional education.
Two to four weeks later, about three-quarters of the original participants returned to have their hand washing re-evaluated. Every child who followed up scored significantly higher on the hygiene scale, regardless of whether they received extra instruction on how to wash their hands.
"Considering the importance of hand hygiene in disease prevention, the implications of this study will have lasting impact in this community's effort to decrease the spread of illness," Groll said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers more information on proper hand hygiene.