Your doctor's white coat may look clean but it may actually be a factory of germs that could make you fall sick. Experts are, in fact, suggesting a new voluntary dress code for health workers to help mitigate the spread of germs from your health workers' clothes and accessories.

The recommendation has been prompted by studies that found germs are present on the lab coat, sleeves, watches, rings, ties and shoes that health workers wear. The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, whose recommendation was published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, Jan.16, admitted that studies have yet to prove that dirty coats and swing ties can indeed spread those germs. Nonetheless, it said that getting health workers to wear cleaner attire would make sense.

"We've not made the definitive link showing someone getting a hospital-acquired infection from the tip of someone's neck tie, but there's reason to suspect it could happen," said Gonzalo Bearman, an infectious disease specialist from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and member of the committee that made the recommendation. Bearman also said that the recommendations should not be considered a formal guideline as they are just "common sense" ideas for a situation that is based on a scientific finding.

Strict dress codes are already in place in most hospitals particularly in the operating room but the new recommendation urges health workers in all areas of the hospital to wear short sleeves and skip using neckties, jewelries and ties when seeing patients. The guidance statement also urges health workers to wash their lab coats with hot water and bleach at least once a week and to disinfect personal items such as ID tags and cellphones that have come in contact with the patients.

"Attire choices should attempt to balance professional appearance, comfort, and practicality with the potential role of apparel in the cross-transmission of pathogens resulting in healthcare-associated infections (HAIs)," the guidance statement reads.

The proponents of the new dress code admit that more studies need to be made to see how the suggested healthcare personnel attire could curb infections but until then, they encourage hospitals to continue with the proven practices that could mitigate infections, such as washing of hands and isolating patients with infectious diseases.

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