Time for Docs to Ditch the White Coat?01/21/14
TUESDAY, Jan. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Could a doctor's
white coat or necktie help spread germs among patients?
The jury's still out on that question. But one of the world's
leading infection control organizations is raising that possibility
under just-released germ control recommendations.
"White coats, neckties, and wrist watches can become contaminated and may potentially serve as vehicles to carry germs from one patient to another," Dr. Mark Rupp, one of the authors of the recommendations issued Jan. 20 by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, said in a society news release.
"However, it is unknown whether white coats and neckties play any real role in transmission of infection," added Rupp, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. "Until better data are available, hospitals and doctor's offices should first concentrate on well-known ways to prevent transmission of infection -- like hand hygiene, environmental cleaning, and careful attention to insertion and care of invasive devices like vascular [blood vessel] catheters."
Additional infection prevention measures could include limiting
the use of white coats and neckties, or at least making sure they
are frequently laundered, the society said.
"As these measures are unproven, they should be regarded as voluntary and if carried out, should be accompanied by careful educational programs," Rupp said. "There is a need for education because the public, as well as health professionals, regard the white coat as a symbol of professionalism and competence. In the future, patients may see their health professionals wearing scrubs -- without white coats, ties, rings, or watches."
Here is a full list of the recommendations that appear in the
February online issue of the journal
Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology:
- Keep arms bare below the elbows, which is defined as wearing
short sleeves and no wristwatch, jewelry, or ties.
- Health care workers should have two or more white coats
available and have access to easy and cheap ways to launder white
- Coat hooks should be available so health care workers can take
off their white coats before contact with patients or their
- Any clothing that comes in contact with patients or their
immediate surroundings should be laundered frequently. If laundered
at home, a hot water wash cycle (ideally with bleach) followed by a
cycle in the dryer or ironing has been shown to eliminate
- All footwear should have closed toes, low heels, and non-skid
- Shared equipment such as stethoscopes should be cleaned between
use on different patients.
- Items such as lanyards, identification tags and sleeves, cell
phones, pagers, and jewelry that come into direct contact with
patients or their surroundings should be disinfected, replaced, or
Each year in the United States, there are 1.7 million
hospital-acquired infections and 99,000 associated deaths,
according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and
The National Patient Safety Foundation outlines what you can do
protect yourself from infections in the
Copyright © 2014
. All rights reserved.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.