While we like to think of hospitals as antiseptic places where germs are not allowed to thrive, the reality is that no matter how sanitary a hospital may appear, it is always possible to pick up an infection while undergoing medical treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 3% of hospital patients may contract a hospital-acquired infection each day. Such infections can lead to increased hospital time, prolonged recovery time, and in some cases, time spent in the intensive care unit. For very young, elderly, or otherwise compromised patients, an additional infection could even risk death. If you find yourself in the hospital, watch for these areas where germs can lurk, and take precautions to protect yourself and your visitors.
One of the most common ways bacteria are transmitted from one person to another is through touch. The gloves that healthcare professionals wear when working with patients protect the worker from germs, not the patient. It is reasonable to ask that your doctors, nurses, and healthcare aids wash their hands before pulling on their gloves, as anything that was on their hands before they touched the gloves has now been transmitted to the outside of them. Don’t be afraid to remind your medical team and your hospital visitors to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water upon entering your room.
The American Journal of Infection Control has published a study reporting hospital floors can be contaminated with pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), and Clostridium difficile. Since Clostridium difficile is not killed by alcohol-based hand sanitizers, make sure your nurse or hospital visitors wash their hands with soap and water after picking up any items from the floor. Wipe down dropped items such as cell phones, and do not place items such as your purse or overnight bag on the floor. If the hospital provides you with non-slip socks to wear during your hospital stay, be sure to ask for a clean pair each day.