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New guidelines tackle problem of dirty lab coats

Many readers are already familiar with the issue of germ control in hospitals. Hospitals are naturally a place with a lot of bacteria, and highly trained disease control specialists are always working on ways to prevent harmful germs from spreading. One way that germs spread in a hospital is on the bodies of the hospital staff, since they travel frequently from room to room. As a result, safety measures like rigorous hand-washing are necessary to keep patients safe.

New guidance from the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America say that hospitals should also take care to make sure clothing worn by staff is clean. While there is no hard data to support the concern that a dirty tie or lab coat could spread an infection, experts say that there is reason to believe that cleaner clothing could help reduce the risks.

As many people know, there are strict guidelines for clean attire in operating rooms. However, hospitals in general can have varying requirements for regular scrubs, lab coats, and other clothing worn by doctors outside the operating room.

New guidelines suggest regular cleaning of lab coats and restrictions on ties. Ties have been shown to carry dangerous bacteria and many doctors openly admit to never having washed them. In addition, lab coats should be cleaned in hot water and bleach at least once a week, compared with the average of 12 days between cleanings that is now the norm. Similarly, common sense tactics like disinfecting ID tags, cellphones, and pagers can help prevent the spread of diseases in hospitals.

Source: USA Today, “Germy lab coats and ties prompt dress code for doctors,” Kim Painter, Jan. 21, 2014.

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Alan D. Bell
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