Vicks, a brand synonymous with cold treatments, has launched a hand foam that protects against germs.

Described by brand owner Procter & Gamble as a "breakthrough way to help prevent catching colds", the foam can be used with or without water. It is said to make 99% of germs already on the hands inactive and provide up to three hours of protection against new ones.

Available next month in a 50ml size retailing at £3.99 and a 150ml size at £6.99, the foam is supported by a £3.7m marketing campaign, which will include TV and print advertising.

Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, said: "Covering the face when coughing or sneezing is good hygiene etiquette but not everybody does, or can, wash their hands immediately after.

"Here starts the journey of the cold virus and an important cause of cold transference. A product that can significantly impede this passage, particularly over the course of several hours, would certainly have a notable role in cold prevention."

According to the

company, a sneezed-on hand is host to thousands of germs and some can survive up to 72 hours. Washing hands controls the spread of germs but, with ordinary soaps, new germs can be picked up immediately.