The best way to ward off the flu is to wash your hands, but hand sanitizers will work if they are used properly, said Dr. Dele Davies, chairman of pediatrics for the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University.
"It's certainly much better than nothing," Davies said. "It's the second-best choice." As with soap, hand sanitizers have to be used on both sides of the hands and between fingers, he said, but the key is letting the sanitizer dry. Otherwise, you're just transferring the gel from one surface, your hands, to another.
Another helpful way for parents to keep their children away from the flu is to clean often-used surfaces and encourage kids to cough into their sleeves rather than their hands. Davies said teaching younger children to not touch their eyes and noses is tough, but older kids should pick up that tip more easily.