If there's one place you should be able to go without worrying about acquiring a disease, it's the hospital. But you and I both know that hospitals are full of bacteria that can be life-threatening. In fact, a review study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that an estimated two million people acquire infections while they're in the hospital every year — and about 90,000 of them die. Even if you do survive the infection, getting one can add an average of two weeks to your stay. The medical bills for these infections add up to over $9.5 billion.
Of course, the hospital is still the place to go for necessary medical care. But while you're there, you can try to avoid extending your stay by knowing what to avoid in your room. The “germiest” object might not be what you think.
For one study, researchers measured the number of bacteria in 15 hotel rooms by testing samples from hand rails, call buttons, tray tables, doorknobs, bath doors, faucet handles, and even the toilet flush handle. They found an average of 91 bacteria per site. But the object with the most germs had more than triple this number. Can you guess what it was?
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It was the TV remote. These little devices contained an average of 320 bacteria. What's worse is that the researchers detected methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a dangerous, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, on many of them. Remember those 90,000 deaths per year from hospital-acquired infections? MRSA accounts for the lion's share of these.
Many areas of hospital rooms are cleaned regularly and thoroughly. But when's the last time you thought about cleaning a TV remote? The hospital cleaning crew might be just as likely to overlook them as you would be.
Fortunately, there's a solution. The researchers also tested newly opened, disposable remote controls. These clocked in with an average of only 8.35 bacteria — and none of them contained MRSA. I think you'll agree that this is a drastic improvement.
If you have a hospital stay in the future, ask about whether you can get a brand-new remote. If not, don't take chances with the one in the room. Bring your own entertainment, or simply use the extra down time to rest. I can't think of a single rerun worth risking your life to see.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD