(COPENHAGEN, Denmark) -- "Wash your hands" has been mothers' battle cry for generations. But a new study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, gives moms some added ammunition.
Keeping a child's hands clean may have an unanticipated benefit -- keeping that child in school.
Danish researchers recently looked at two groups of students, aged 5 to 15. One group was required to disinfect their hands with an ethanol-based gel three times a day, while another was not asked to change their behavior -- though both groups received instruction on proper handwashing techniques.
During the three-month intervention, all school absences due to illness were recorded and the data analyzed. Those who regularly cleaned their hands had 26-percent fewer missed days and 22-percent fewer illness periods than those that did not.
A year later, researchers switched the groups along with their handwashing habits, and found missed days declined 34 percent for those now washing regularly. And for that first group, no longer required to clean up three times a day, there was no significant change in missed days -- perhaps suggesting that hand-hygiene programs might be habit-forming.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio