To reduce the spread of infections like MRSA and C. diff, hospitals should encourage doctors to adopt a new dress code, according to a report published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) recommends physicians avoid wearing long sleeves, wrist watches, neck ties and jewelry, but encourages sturdy, closed-toed shoes. Doctors should wash their white coats at least once a week in hot water and bleach, according to the article.
Although there is no known direct link between the germs on healthcare workers' clothing and actual infections, it's best to take precautions, experts said.
"There's a theoretical basis that if you have clean clothes, you have less chance of transmitting a pathogen," Gonzalo Bearman, M.D., a hospital epidemiologist with the Virginia Commonwealth University System and a member of the SHEA guidelines committee, told NBC News.
Studies on the subject suggest sleeves, pockets and other parts of healthcare workers' coats and scrubs can harbor germs like Acinetobacter and Pseudomonas, NBC News reported. One study found that a third of doctors' neckties grew Staphylococcus aureus in the lab. Several found that the germs were often resistant to the top drugs used to treat them.
This isn't the first attempt to prevent germ spread through dress code. In 2011, New York state lawmakers proposed legislation that would bar physicians and hospital staff from wearing ties, and have them adopt a "bare below the elbow" policy--including forgoing long white lab coats in favor of short sleeves and refraining from wearing watches and jewelry, FierceHealthcare previously reported.
To learn more:
- here's the SHEA report