Glowing germ gel inspires kids to wash hands better

By Tom Nordlie • Published: October 11th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Persuading children to wash their hands can be as hard as making them do homework.

And, unlike missed assignments, dirty hands can have serious health consequences.

Pathogens found on messy mitts can include E. coli and salmonella, which cause nasty stomach ailments.

But a group of researchers found a way to motivate kids, by making hand-washing fun.

Their findings appear in a recent issue of the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

The study involved about 90 parents and children recruited in the waiting room of a children’s hospital.

Researchers put a gel on the participants’ hands that caused germs to glow under black light.

The participants got a look at the unclean areas, then washed up. Afterward, researchers used a black light to show the germs that remained.

They also scored each participant’s hands for cleanliness. About half the group was then instructed on proper hand-washing technique.

A follow-up session was held a few weeks later. This time, the procedure was simpler — glow gel, washing and a black-light inspection.

This time, the children did a better job scrubbing their hands.

There was little difference between the children who received hand-washing instructions and those who didn’t, meaning seeing a handful of glowing germs gave kids the motivation they needed to wash up.

The adults may have been less motivated, though. They didn’t show any overall improvement in hand cleanliness at the follow-up.

The researchers concluded that other hospitals could use glow-gel to promote good hand-washing among young patients.

So maybe you’ll see this method in a hospital waiting room near you.

In the meantime, could somebody please develop a gel that makes homework more fun?