As we enter fall and winter here in the Pacific Northwest, we find ourselves spending more time indoors, increasing the rates of transmission of cold and flu viruses. Because our patients touch many surfaces and many instruments and hands touch our patients, standard precautions tell us to be alert to all these exposures for both patients and providers. In order to reduce the risk of exposure and transmission, consider these helpful tips:
- Over-the-counter chlorine wipes (brand or generic) destroy most bacteria and viruses on smooth surfaces with one application. The surface must be left wet and allowed to air dry for four (4) minutes for complete cleaning. There are many surfaces that should be cleaned frequently throughout the day, including door handles, restroom doorknobs/handles, arm rests, countertops, community “sign-in” pens, and community use keyboard/mouse/work stations. It is also important to remind everyone to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth thereby limiting contact related transmission to themselves.
- Everything and everybody our hands touch carry risk: risk of transmission, infection, and injury. Handwashing is good for limiting that risk but in a busy practice may irritate your hands. Alcohol gels are easier to apply between routine exposures and should be available throughout the office for patient and providers. Use of an alcohol-based gel will also alert you if you have any sort of open lesion on your hands in which case a glove will be a safer option.
- Tools and supplies used in practice need to be sterilized or replaced. For example:
- Chiropractic tables should have paper covers for areas that a patients face may touch. These should be changed out for each patient.
- Gua Sha tools made of ox horn do not sterilize well because they are porous. Replace them with metal or resin tools.
- Cupping tools of glass or plastic can be sterilized with chlorine wipes.
- Hot rocks used in massage need immersion in appropriate cleaning liquid.
- Topical gels and lotions for massage should be accessed by squeeze bottles or pumps (with regular surface cleaning) rather than open jars where cross-contamination can occur between providers and patients.
Need more info on limiting the exposure and transmission of viruses? The Centers for Disease Control has an excellent page here with data supporting their handwashing recommendations as well as health promotion materials. McKesson offers their UPrevent site with infection prevention guides.