Employees across the country use an estimated 407 million days a year, costing businesses roughly $260 billion in revenue. But, researchers say there is an easy way to avoid illness and keep employees healthy: proper hand hygiene is one of the most effective means to prevent the spread of infection.

A recent German study compared two groups of city workers — one group was given alcohol-based hand sanitizer and the other went on with life as usual. Respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms were tracked along with days of work.

Over the span of one year, 130 people were monitored. At the conclusion, it was determined that the group that received and used hand sanitizers had fewer sick days.

CBS reporting suggests that precisely measuring use, instead of asking people to remember how often they used it and longer follow up to account for seasonal variations, could have strengthened the study. But it seems to be on the right track.

Hand sanitizers contain 70 percent rubbing alcohol, the concentration needed to disrupt the outer portions of viruses and bacteria in effect, killing them. The effect seems to last longer than soap and water, according to reports, and it can be less drying to the skin if it also contains moisturizer.

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