Could a stethoscope make you sick?

Stethoscopes have been used for many years to check patient’s hearts, lungs, and sounds from their bowels.  But could a stethoscope actually make you sick?

A recent study on stethoscopes showed that they are loaded with bacteria, such as Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, and Acinetobacter, as well as other types of bacteria.  It is known that contaminated stethoscopes can contribute to infections.

What can be done?  Stethoscopes should be cleaned between each patient use with an approved disinfectant, such as 70% alcohol.  This should be performed by all health care providers including nurses, doctors, and paramedics.

Hospitals are encouraging patients to speak up if a provider does not wash their hands or their stethoscope when they come in the room.  It is OK to say, “Can you please wash your hands and stethoscope before examining me?”


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