You’re probably seeing your doctor in the hope of staying healthy. Unfortunately, even the most pristine-looking medical offices are hot beds for germs. From the “coughers” and “sneezers” in the waiting room to the employees (and even the doctor) who forget to wash their hands after seeing sick patients, you’re in a high-risk environment. So what can you do to lower your risk of falling victim to whatever virus is passing around at your doctor’s office?
See if You Can Handle Your Problem by Phone
If you’re seeing your doctor for something simple like a prescription refill, call the office first to see if you can handle your problem by phone. Why sit in a waiting room full of sick people unless you have to? Not everything requires a face-to-face visit. Luckily, telemedicine, where you consult with a doctor online or by video, is growing in popularity. With telemedicine, you can see a doctor in the privacy of your home. That’s convenient, especially during flu season.
Avoid the Waiting Room Blues
Steer clear of the waiting room. The waiting room is where most of the viruses and bacteria cluster. People with colds and respiratory infections waiting to be called back to see the doctor have time to flip through magazines and transfer germs to the pages. Especially when the doc is running behind. When you pick up a magazine, you could become the unlucky recipient of a cold virus. Why take the chance? Bring your own book or magazine to read and keep it in your lap, and not on the table or chair.
The same goes for anything in the waiting room. If you have a child, bring along a toy for them to play with so they don’t have to handle toys sick children might have played with in the waiting room.
It’s not just the toys and reading material that harbor viruses. When patients in the waiting room cough or sneeze, viruses are expelled into the air. Sit in the waiting room long enough and you’ll breathe some in. Hopefully, your immune system will fight them off, but avoiding them entirely is the best form of protection. Carry a cell phone and ask the front desk to call you when they’re ready for you. Then wait in your car.
Be an Early Bird
Paranoid about germs? Grab the first appointment of the day when the waiting room and examining room are at their cleanest. Most offices aren’t thoroughly cleaned and sanitized until the end of the day. This leaves lots of time for sick patients to filter in and leave behind their germs.
Bring Your Own Hand Sanitizer
Protect yourself from viruses and bacteria by carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer with you. Look for one made with natural ingredients as the safety of the ingredients in some hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial soaps, particularly triclosan, are under scrutiny. Clean your hands before stepping into your doctor’s office and again as you leave.
Make Sure Your Doc is Following the Rules
Like everyone else, doctors and nurses are in a hurry and sometimes forget to wash their hands. Don’t be afraid to ask them to do it before they examine you. It’s not just the hands of health care workers you have to fear. A study showed a doctor’s stethoscope is more contaminated with bacteria than their hands. Ask them politely to use an alcohol wipe to clean the portion of the stethoscope that goes on your chest. It’s not rude to do this. In fact, it’s smart.
The Bottom Line?
Just because it’s a doctor’s office doesn’t mean it’s clean. A constant influx and efflux of patients creates an environment that’s teeming with germs. Take a few simple steps to protect yourself.