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Keeping Germs off Your Hair, Hands and Face

Keeping Germs off Your Hair, Hands and Face

Brady Pregerson, MD & Rebekah Child, RN

February 22, 2010

We all want to look good at work, but we want to stay healthy as well. In Part II of The Perils of Beauty, Dr. Brady and Nurse Rebekah talked about white lab coats as carriers of germs. Here, they tackle your hair, hands and face.

Nurse Rebekah: Our last stop on this adventure through hospital wardrobe is hair. I have a decent amount of hair, it’s long and if I’m motivated enough, I can make it look real puuuurrrrty. But not at work!!! Tie it back, ladies! This goes for physicians, too! I’ve seen both sexes guilty of hair sins: long, beautiful hair flowing down over their shoulders and right into a sterile field, foley catheter or a seeping-oozing-disgusting wound.

Think of that old high school cheer…tie it back, tie it back, waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back. I’m just waiting for a mutant MRSA strain that makes your hair fall out in giant abscesses. People tie their hair back when patients have lice. Why? Because you can see lice. You can’t see the smarmy microbes, but they are there, right? We learned that in microbiology. Remember the door handle swabs?

Dr. Brady: Personally, I’m more interested in the touching-your-face issue. Most communicable diseases are transferred by touching your eyes, mouth or nose with unclean hands and fingers. I’m paranoid about touching my face unless I’ve just washed my hands. I consider my hands to be a disease-ridden zone, except for immediately after sanitization. The last place I want those hands to be is anywhere near my face or my food. Yet I see people all day long rubbing their eyes, picking their nose and touching their lips. I want to yell, “Don’t! Do you know where those hands have been?”

Fortunately, there is a balancing force: the secretaries who wipe down everything in a 10-foot radius with sanitizing surface wipes as soon as they get to work. I love to watch that. Fortunately, my ED is pretty clean. I even see the cleaning crew regularly spray the curtains with disinfectant. I don’t think they do that everywhere, but they should. Can you imagine what would grow if we plated those on bacterial culture?

In part IV of The Perils of Beauty, Dr. Brady and Nurse Rebekah discuss the ways our clothing enhances—or undermines—our professional image. Read Parts I through III here.

We’d love to hear your advice about avoiding germs at work. Do you wear a ponytail? Cover yourself in a coating of Purell? >Wash your hands both before and after using the restroom?

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