Do we need more naked doctors and nurses?

The Pediatric Insider

© 2011 Roy Benaroch, MD

Those scrubs and white coats worn by your friendly doctor and helpful nurses? They might just be loaded with germs.

This month researchers published a simple study looking at about 240 samples collected from physicians’ and nurses’ uniforms at a hospital in Jerusalem. They found that over 60% of the swabs were contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, including many that were resistant to multiple drugs. Previous research has shown that doctors’ neckties can also harbor nasty infectious organisms.

These studies have not shown that the bacteria on clothes can make their way to patients and cause infection, but they do illustrate how difficult it is to create a truly germ-free environment.

The best defense seems to be to fight the most direct path that bacteria take to get to you and cause infection: though your hands. Germs on the doctor’s coat (or even, heaven forbid, on a naked body) won’t make you sick until they get through your skin. That usually means via the mucus membranes of your mouth, eyes, and nose when you touch your own face. Keep washing those hands!

And just to be safe, I’d stay away from the naked doctor, too.

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