Doctor's Office Germs - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Doctor's Office Germs

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Flu season has arrived. Now through March many will catch those nasty, highly contagious, bugs like the seasonal flu, H1-N1, colds, and other illnesses. Most of them are spread through your own unwashed hands or they are transmitted through contaminated objects.

It could send you to the doctor's office in search of relief, but as WALB News Ten's Jennifer Emert found out, if you're not careful, the trip to your doctor's office could make your illness worse. She's got a list of tips to help you avoid Doctor office germs.

When you walk into the doctor's office, the first priority is to sign in, but picking up that pen could be bad for your health.

"When you come in with so much stuff and you're carrying her, it's just give me the pen, I'm going to fill it out," said Ashley Mahoney.

Germs from the flu or other illnesses can remain on high touched surfaces, like the sign in pen or a door knob up to 48 hours. Southwest Georgia Pediatrics is arming visitors with hand sanitizer, masks, and more at the front desk to prevent the spread of disease, but do you even need to be in the waiting room?

"This is a good place to come to get sick sometimes so, we're doing a lot more on the phone sometimes, not necessarily treating patients on the phone, but helping parents decide do they need to go to the doctor's office or is this something we can take care of at home," said Dr. Stacy Evans of Southwest Georgia Pediatrics. 

If you need to make the trip to the office, especially with kids, just try and keep them from touching all the toys in the waiting room.

"He reads the books and he plays with the toys and no I don't try to prevent him from doing that, that wouldn't be right," Ruth Tilley said.

"We've actually removed a lot of the toys we normally have out just to kind of keep from transferring germs to other patients," said LPN Barbara Matthews, of Southwest Georgia Pediatrics Nursing Supervisor.

"If I don't trust that then I would be a nervous wreck, no, no, no, no and you can't you have to let them explore," said Mahoney.

We used this special solution on three year old Alyssa to see just how many different surfaces she might touch while she's waiting for the doctor, you can see while playing with the toy she pretty much touched all of the beads, onto the desk and over here onto the leap frog in just about three minutes time.

Parents are encouraged to bring their own activities to cut down on the exposure to more germs. Keeping your distance from other sick patients in the waiting room can also reduce your risk of infection.

Flu germs can travel at least three feet before they fall to the floor. At Southwest Georgia Pediatrics they've purchase the waiting pagers many restaurants use.

"We offer pagers for patients who don't want to wait in the waiting room with other sick patients so they can wait in their vehicle. We'll page them when we're ready to put them in a room," said Matthews.

Once you're out of the waiting room, more is done to cut back on the spread of germs in the exam rooms.

"We clean them every single time now with Lysol and a wipe that kills any kind of germ ever single time," said Matthews.

Parents wanting to take it to the extreme shouldn't hesitate to ask the doctor to wash their hands in front of them.

"Not at all, not at all, we do that in between patients you know as part of what we do to keep down the risk of transmission," said Dr. Evans.

Worrying about the spread of contagious illnesses can drive you nuts. "You can't dip them in sanitizer, you know, you just do what you got to do, I'm going to wipe her hands off as soon as we get back there," said Mahoney.

But it you follow a few simple tips, like washing your hands, avoiding common objects, and not touching your hands to your face, you automatically reduce the risk of getting sick from your trip to see the doctor.

Now this may seem a little impersonal, but you can also keep yourself healthier by not shaking hands, but saying hello with a nod and by eating well to keep your body strong during flu season.

 

Here are simple strategies you can adopt to prevent the spread of disease at the doctor's office:

  • First, know when it's best to stay home. With H1N1, or swine flu, sickening estimated millions around the country, healthcare experts are urging people suffering from relatively mild flu symptoms like sore throat, fever, coughing, and fatigue to first call a doctor to discuss symptoms before trudging into the doctor's office with a hacking cough and germ-spraying sneezes. Depending on the severity of your illness, the office may recommend that you stay home to get better because most people fully recover without any medicine. However, if your condition worsens, or appears to improve but then worsens again, with a high fever or more coughing, contact your doctor immediately because a secondary bacterial infection could be setting in.

If healthcare providers suspect you're suffering from H1N1 and want to see you in the office, they may arrange for you to go straight to a treatment room to avoiding spreading germs to people in the waiting room.

  • Know when to wash and disinfect. An average adult can touch 30 objects within a minute, including germ-harboring, high-touch surfaces like light switches, doorknobs, phones, and remote controls. At home, it's a good idea to keep these areas clean, but in the doctor's office, make sure you wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer after you come in contact with these surfaces, and before touching your face.

"The most important thing to remember for children, adults-anyone-it's the touching something and bringing your hand back to your face, like rubbing your eyes or face, or putting your hands in your mouth," says Rosenbaum. "The less you touch the better, but don't always feel you can't touch anything. As long as you clean your hands before your touch your face, you're doing a good deed in preventing flu transmission."

Require a lot of elbow room. If you're stuck in the waiting room, try to keep to keep at least two chairs in between you and someone coughing and sneezing. Flu droplets tend to travel just three feet before they drop to the floor, so keeping your distance from someone with respiratory symptoms could reduce your chances of picking up their bug.

  • Consider bringing your own entertainment. This may seem a bit extreme, but if there is an outbreak of a particular contagious illness, such as H1N1 or even seasonal flu, in your community you could go as far as bringing your own books and magazines into the waiting room in the name of preventing flu. If you're taking a child to the doctor's office during peak flu or cold season in your area, you can also pack his or her own toys, crayons, or coloring books to keep the child entertained without risking exposure to more germs.
  • Bring your own cleaner. Always go to the doctor's office armed with tissues and alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content (avoid any soap or sanitizer containing the pesticide triclosan), and suggest to the receptionist that the office should provide these germ-containing and -killing measures. Come January, you'll have a less-abrasive, plant-based option: Seventh Generation is coming out with the first EPA-registered natural disinfectant wipes and spray; the products will use thyme oil to safely kill more than 99 percent of germs, including the H1N1 virus.
  • Say '"howdy" with a nod. Many docs like to say hello with a handshake when they enter a room, but don't feel rude if you decline. "Just say, I'd love to shake your hand, but I'm avoiding respiratory illnesses," suggests Rosenbaum. Or say you've been reading guidance on preventing germ transmission, and would rather not touch.
  • Request a hand washing. If you're going to extremes to wash your hands to prevent the spread of illness, you're going to want everyone touching you at the doctor's office to do the same. Politely ask nurses and doctors to wash their hands or sanitize them with gel in front of you.
  • Ask the doc to clean instruments, too. Different organisms live for different lengths of time in the environment. "Most like a nice, moist, warm environment, but some live in a dry environment," explains Rosenbaum. For instance, researchers have found that MRSA, a hard-to-kill bacterial infection, can live on doctors' ties or even their stethoscopes for a short period of time. For added protection, you can ask a nurse or doctor if the equipment has been wiped down with alcohol before he or she checks your heartbeat.
  • Eat well. A diet of french fries and soda isn't going to do much for your immune system, so pay particular attention to eating whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to keep your body strong during this flu season

 

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