Glowing gel helps children see germs, clean hands more effectively

July 1, 2011

Using a nontoxic, glowing, hand-washing gel appears to be an effective way to improve children?s hand-washing ability.

Using a nontoxic, glowing, hand-washing gel appears to be an effective way to improve children’s hand-washing ability.

Researchers from Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago conducted a prospective, randomized pilot study of 60 patients (aged 8 to 18 years) who were in the waiting room of an emergency department at an urban children’s hospital.

Some 31 patients received glowing hand-washing gel without any instruction about hand hygiene, and 29 received the hand gel with education on hand hygiene. Hand-washing education included demonstration of proper hand washing, use of warm water, and washing for 20 seconds by singing to “Happy Birthday” or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” twice.

After the glow gel was applied to hands, a black light was used to illuminate areas of the hands that were unclean. The patients were then asked to wash their hands with soap and water. The black light was brought back to see how well the patients cleaned their hands. A 4-point scale was used to determine cleanliness of the hands, with 1 being “very dirty” and 4 being “very clean.” Two to 4 weeks later, 46 (77%) children returned for follow-up and had their hand-washing techniques reevaluated.

At follow-up, hand-washing ability significantly improved for all children compared with their initial visit (P=.02). Patients also were more apt to use warm water at the follow-up (P=.01). Patient age and grade in school did not appear to affect initial hand-washing ability or degree of improvement.

“It [glow gel hand washing] is an effective, quick, and low-cost intervention; it offers a unique strategy to educate patients and families and change hand hygiene behaviors; and if these practices are sustained, it could possibly decrease the spread of illness,” conclude the researchers. The intervention also could serve to teach proper hand washing in health care settings, they add.

Fishbein AB, Tellez I, Lin H, Sullivan C, Groll ME. Glow gel hand washing in the waiting room: a novel approach to improving hand hygiene education. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2011;32(7):661-666.