Avoid Getting Germs From Your Doctor's Office

It's ironic, isn't it? The one place you go to get healthy is also among the best places to get sick.

Doctor's offices are full of sick people, and not all of them practice good hygiene or use common sense about keeping their germs to themselves. So, how do you avoid picking up a virus or infection while in the waiting room?

Start by following these 10 tips:

1. Don't go when you don't have to
Many minor illnesses and viruses clear up spontaneously without requiring a visit to the doctor. Call before you take your sniffles, aches and pains to the clinic. Your physician may advise that you stay home, drink fluids, and rest or may call in a prescription without having you come to the office.

2. Don't be friendly
If you must go to the doctor's office:

  • Sit as far away from other people (especially those who are coughing and sneezing) as possible.
  • Don't shake hands. Germs are easily spread from hand-to-hand contact, especially after they've been sneezed and coughed on and by people who don't practice good hygiene.
  • Don't let your children play with other children at the doctor's office.

3. Avoid the magazine rack
Bring your own reading material. While most germs prefer body contact or moist, warm environments, others can live on inanimate objects and surfaces for a while.

4. Don't share
Bring your own pen. Don't use the clipboards offered for filling out paperwork. And bring toys for your child to play with and discourage them from sharing with other children.

5. Keep your hands to yourself
Every surface you touch could be covered with germs from the person who previously touched it. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth until you have a chance to wash them.

6. Wash, wash, wash
The best way to avoid getting sick is by thoroughly and frequently washing your hands. Use an antibacterial gel cleaner when you can't get to soap and water. Be especially vigilant about washing after touching doors, counters, pens, and waiting-room chairs.

7. Ask your doctor to wash her hands if she doesn't automatically.

8. Ask your doctor (or staff) to disinfect her stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, and other equipment before she touches you with it. All it takes is a wipe with an alcohol swab or antibacterial wipe.

9. Keep up-to-date with vaccinations
Disease spreads easily in crowded places like doctor's offices, and not everyone will be vaccinated against serious and preventable diseases like Pertussis and measles. Ask your doctor to make sure you've gotten all your boosters.

10. Follow all the good health rules
Your best defense against disease is a healthy immune system. Eat well, get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, and exercise regularly.