The fight against flu has an arsenal of weapons—shots, pills, masks and more—but hand sanitizers have little punch in preventing the spread of the virus, researchers have determined.

A study led by UVA cold expert Dr. Ronald Turner concluded that alcohol-based hand disinfectants failed to significantly reduce the frequency of infection from either the rhinovirus—the cause of the common cold—or the influenza virus.

The results run contrary to expectations. “We all thought if you used hand disinfectants, it would have an impact,” Turner says. “These results suggest that hand transmission may be less important for the spread of rhinovirus and influenza virus than previously believed.”

In the study, which was funded by the Dial Corp., volunteers who used an antiviral hand sanitizer every three hours had 42 rhinovirus infections per 100 subjects compared to 51 infections per 100 subjects in those who went without. Similarly, volunteers who used the sanitizer had 12 influenza infections per 100 subjects compared to 15 infections per 100 subjects in the control group.

Turner says the increased use of masks may be advisable.