Let me ask you this. How can you prevent getting sick when your doctor’s office is literally a giant cesspool of germs?
Don’t you just love the moms that send their kids to school packing a case of strep throat instead of a case of paper cups as requested from the back to school supply list? Or Joe from the accounting department who comes in while he’s hacking up a lung. They’re real peaches, aren’t they? Hey, I get it, they’re workaholics, they have no time off, or no one to watch their sick kid, but is it really fair to you and your kids to get sick because of Joe or that one mom?
Even if that wasn’t the case, and it’s time to take you or your little one for their routine checkup; there is an 85% chance someone in your family is going to get sick from the doctor’s waiting room.
I currently work for a doctor’s office, so I’m pretty much an authority on this subject.
The years have gone since doctors made house calls. I know I’m totally dating myself here, but I remember when I was 5 or 6, the doctor came to my house with his little black doctor bag filled with his stethoscope, pills, otoscope, and big needles. Okay, maybe the needles were just my imagination, but the doctor came to your house with their portable office.
It’s inevitable, there is always a good chance you’ll catch a cold or virus from the doctor’s office; however, there are some precautions you can take to mitigate the level of the exposure.
“Well” and “Sick” waiting rooms.
Fast forward to today, where the Pediatricians offices are hustling and bustling. Each provider is triple booked to accommodate the amount of well and sick kids. Most Pediatric offices have 2 separate waiting rooms; one of the routine visits and one for sick visits. I really hate to burst your bubble here, but the germs from the sick room don’t just stay there. The waiting rooms in any medical practice and emergency department are a hotbed of germs just looking to infect someone whose immune system is low.
The only purpose of having a well and sick waiting room is to make you as the parent feel better about your kid not catching something from another sick kid. Other than that, they really don’t serve a purpose at all.
You’re still going into the exam room that a few sick kids were in right before you were taken back. Sure, the medical assistants or nurses wipe down the exam table, but what about all the other surfaces the sick kid touched?
The best defense is to put on a surgical mask. Who cares if the other mothers look at you and your kids like you’re freaks. You’re the smart ones. Plus, kids love wearing masks. If you’re not a crazy germ-a-phobic (there’s really nothing crazy about it). If you don’t have a mask in your purse, just ask the staff at the doctor’s office for one. If they don’t have masks (not all offices do, or the front desk staff are just plain jerks), put a tissue over your nose and mouth.
Okay, so how do we prevent the addition of germs while waiting for our kids to see the doctor?
By following these tips, you can avoid additional exposure to the nasty germs that want to party down in you and your kid’s immune system.
Wash your hands.
The number one way to prevent the majority of illnesses we come in contact with is washing our hands. I do realize there are times when a sink is not readily available, and in those times you should always keep some antibacterial gel in your purse. The antibacterial gel works wonders, but it’s not to be used alone or as a safety net. There is nothing better than washing your hands with hot soapy water. Always remember, if there is visible dirt on you or your children’s hands, wash with soap and water first.
Most doctor’s offices either have store-bought antibacterial pump dispensers or the ones that work with a motion sensor that dispenses foam. Someone told me once, If there is a choice, always go with the dispensers that have the motion sensor, because people won’t be touching the handle, but it doesn’t really matter. True, germ-infested people are touching the dispenser pump, but what are you putting on your hands right after you touched the dispenser? That’s right; antibacterial gel.
Once your visit is over, head to a sink and wash your hands with soap and water.
Make your appointment early in the day.
I understand you don’t want your child to miss school, but if you’re taking them to the pediatrician for a well-child visit, then try to make the appointment as early in the morning as you can. There will be fewer sick people in the office, which gives you and your child a better chance of not catching something.
Overcrowded waiting rooms.
If the waiting rooms are overly crowded and it’s standing room only, to avoid potential germs finding their way to you and your kids, wait outside if possible. If you do so, please make sure to notify the front desk so they will inform the doctor’s nurse or whoever normally calls you or your kids back to the treatment room.
Keep an eye on the time and do check back in with them every so often just in case they forget about you and your kids. I work in a doctor’s office; it does happen.
Don’t read the magazines or let your kids play with the toys.
I know most of us don’t really think of this, but we sit down in the waiting room, surrounded by magazines. You may all of a sudden be intrigued by the cover of a People magazine. Without thinking you pick it up and flip through the magazine, or your son finds a copy of the Pokey Little Puppy book and wants you to read it to him. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?
Wrong. There’s so much wrong with that.
This is gross, but I know 9 out of 10 people do this; you lick your index finger before flipping each page. Think about it. How many people before you just did that?
It’s okay, I’ll wait here while you run in the bathroom and gargle with some Listerine.
Hopefully, you’re not one of the people who do that, and even if you’re not, if you pick up a book or magazine that was sitting in the waiting room, then touch your eye, nose or mouth, you are introducing whatever germs are on there into your body.
The best thing to do is, pack your own magazines, books, and toys for the kids. I know it’s hard to keep the kids from playing with the legos or whatever toys are in the waiting room, but if they do play with them, just be cognizant to douse their little hands with antibacterial gel and make sure they don’t put their fingers in their mouths.
Is your doctor following proper hand-washing protocol?
If your doctor or nurse practitioner comes into the room and does not immediately wash their hands with soap and water or use antibacterial foam or gel, it’s really okay to ask them to do so before touching you and your child.
From experience working with physicians, a lot of them sort of skip this. I know; it’s gross!
The unseen vehicle of most germs
The stethoscope is one of the most germ-ridden medical devices known to mankind. Think about this, It takes a ride on the doctor and touches the skin of everyone it meets. Before your doctor uses his/her stethoscope, ask them to wipe it off with an alcohol prep pad. I’m sure most of them never even though about this.
We can’t forget the chairs, door handles and basically any surface that resides in a medical office.
Did you ever wonder why doctors stopped wearing neckties? A few I know switched to bowties and in all honesty, they look so dorky.
Think about a necktie.
Your doctor is leaning over you pressing down on your stomach listening to bowel sounds when all of a sudden his necktie grazes your stomach. Gross, think about how many other patients the doctor saw before you. Odds are, you’re not the first person that day his tie grazed a body part. Just sayin’.
Unfortunately, we can’t live in a bubble
Keeping your children and yourself from being attacked by germs, viruses, and bacteria is something that we can’t prevent. Let’s face it unless we’re living on this planet alone, germs are everywhere. Just because they’re everywhere, doesn’t mean we can’t do everything in our power to keep them at bay.
Even though your doctor’s office may look clean and the waiting rooms smell fresh and look orderly, it doesn’t mean they’re germ-free. After all, on average you will be waiting anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes in the waiting room from the time your appointment was scheduled. That gives those nasty little bugs plenty of time to take a ride on you and your kids.
Although I shared 7 ways to prevent getting sick at the doctor’s office, this list is not all-inclusive. I’d love to know what other ways you prevent getting sick when going to the doctor’s office, or if you’ve never really given it any thought.
Share in a comment below.
Until we meet again,