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How do I protect my child from infections while at the hospital?

All hospital staffers must WASH THEIR HANDS before treating your child and before touching any object that may come in contact with your child. Guess who must enforce this commandment? That’s right. You. Make sure that everyone washes with soap and warm water or uses a hand sanitizer before they touch your child. (This goes for you, too.) Hand washing is the single most effective way to keep your child from picking up an infection that could be life threatening. It’s not an idle precaution: Hospitals that successfully increase hand washing see their infection rates drop.

If it’s so basic and sensible, why do you have to worry about making sure doctors and nurses wash their hands? Because hospital staffers forget to do it. Constantly. Studies estimate that hand-washing rates in hospitals average 40 percent to 60 percent on “a good day.” One study found that medical students washed their hands most often, while surgeons, anesthesiologists, and critical-care doctors washed their hands least often. Not what you want to hear, right? That’s why you have to be the cop. You might have to repeat “Please wash your hands” so often while your child is in the hospital that you start mumbling it in your sleep.

Now, I know it’s not always easy to say, “Excuse me, doctor, but please wash your hands or use the sanitizing gel before touching my child.” It can feel like you’re criticizing or being bossy. But it’s every staffer’s obligation to do so and your right to demand it. Some parents are squeamish about mentioning hand hygiene to harried doctors and nurses for fear of aggravating them. Don’t be. Because here’s the harsh reality: If you wimp out on insisting that all staffers wash their hands, you’re endangering your child’s life.

From The Smart Parent's Guide: Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents by Jennifer Trachtenberg.

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The Smart Parent's Guide: Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents

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What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do! "Moms and dads need expert guidelines, especially when it comes to their kids' health. This book reveals the inside strategies I use myself-I'm a parent,...
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
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The hospital can be one of the worst places for getting an infection. (Hospital-acquired infections are called nosocomial infections.) While you may not be able to prevent all of them, you can still take precautions by carrying hand sanitizer and keeping a stash of toys and books in your car for your kids. It's also imperative that you be vigilant in making sure that hospital staff wash their hands before seeing your child -- even if they're wearing gloves. The fact is that latex gloves can harbor even more germs than bare hands; also, rings on fingers can harbor extra bacteria, as the germs get trapped between the jewelry and the skin. So a fresh wash is a must for anyone checking out your child.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.