Everything is disgusting and we're all going to die of something at some point. That being said, just because everything's already kind of disgusting doesn't mean we shouldn't strive, as a society, to be less gross. One place we could start is doctor's stethoscopes.
New research suggests that after patient contact, stethoscopes contain more bacteria than any other part of a medical professional, excluding fingertips. Basically failing to sanitize stethoscopes between patients is pretty much like a doctor not washing her hands between patients, and medical professionals who don't consistently sanitize their stethoscopes between patients potentially expose their patients to all kinds of germs, including really nasty ones like MRSA.
Dr Didier Pittet, Director of the Infection Control Program and WHO Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety, University of Geneva Hospitals, said: "By considering that stethoscopes are used repeatedly over the course of a day, come directly into contact with patients' skin, and may harbour several thousands of bacteria (including MRSA) collected during a previous physical examination, we consider them as potentially significant vectors of transmission.
"From infection control and patient safety perspectives, the stethoscope should be regarded as an extension of the physician's hands and be disinfected after every patient contact."
What does this mean? First of all, that doctors should brush up on their hygiene best practices before they hone their penmanship (sorry; not getting MRSA is more important!). Second, that cold feeling you feel when the metal touches your skin might not actually be temperature-based at all. What if it's the sensation of a million tiny germs crawling from the surface of the instrument to your skin, where they will have a germ party with the other germs living on your skin?
Ugh. I'm going to take 15 hot showers.
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