Here’s a health tip that everyone knows yet many ignore.
Since a recent study found that one-third of patients released from the hospital were swarming with superbugs…
Wash your hands frequently during any stay in a hospital or a rehab facility—and be sure to do so right before you come home.
Superbugs are the nasty infectious bacteria that are increasingly resistant to just about every antibiotic on the block, hence the name—multidrug resistant organisms (MDROs). When researchers at the University of Michigan swabbed the hands of about 350 older patients before, during and after a stay in a rehab facility—the kind you may go to after you’re discharged from the hospital but aren’t able to go home yet—they found some unpleasant surprises…
• Nearly one-quarter (24%) had at least one MDRO on their hands when they were discharged from the hospital to rehab.
• During their stay in rehab, 34% had at least one MDRO. That is, about 10% of the patients acquired one or more new ones in rehab.
• At discharge from the rehab, 23% still had MDROs on their hands.
These were some brutish bugs, too, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an infection that often starts on the skin but can travel throughout the bloodstream (sepsis), and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), usually a hospital-based infection that can also cause sepsis as well as pneumonia. While there still are some antibiotics that can work against these infections, they can be life-threatening, especially for older, frail and immune-compromised people.
That’s why the staff—doctors, nurses and everyone else who comes in and out of the patient rooms—is routinely advised to wash their hands thoroughly. But there’s someone who has been forgotten in the hand-washing enthusiasm—the patient.
Why hands in particular? More than any other part of your body, it’s your hands that are likely to touch surfaces (a bed rail, a countertop, an armchair, a doorknob) and the hands of health-care workers and fellow patients, according to the study authors. Superbug transmission is even more of a concern in rehab facilities than hospitals because rehab patients are encouraged to get up, move around and interact with each other.
The solution is simple—a good scrubbing with soap and water. Make sure it happens before you leave rehab. Once you or your loved one comes home from the hospital or rehab, a long, hot soapy shower wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.