Hospital TV Remote Controls Carry More Bugs Than Toilet Bowl Handles

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Houston concluded that the items in hotel rooms with the highest levels of bacteria are those that are most commonly touched first upon entering a hotel room [1].  Such items include the TV remote, bedside lamp, and light switch. This new evidence coincides with findings from a similar study conducted in 2009 at the University of Arizona, where researchers concluded that TV remote controls in hospital rooms contained more bacteria than items such as the toilet bowl handle and bathroom door [2].

Another important aspect of this study’s findings is the fact that the data suggests that bacteria is most likely to be spread from room to room via the janitorial staff. Items that are transported from room to room, including cleaning carts, mops, and sponges were found to contain the highest amounts of bacterial contamination. After losing my father in 2008 to a number of infections including MRSA and C. diff, one of my biggest complaints was the fact that the janitorial staff at the hospital would clean the entire ICU with one bucket and mop, never stopping to change the cleaning solution from room to room. Because C. diff can form spores that are able survive on surfaces for long periods of time, such cleaning mechanisms are essentially causing more harm than good by transporting bacteria from room to room. While this present study focuses on hotel rooms, it still raises the issue of inadvertently transporting bacteria across hospital rooms.

This study also concluded that hotel rooms contained bacteria levels anywhere from two to ten times higher than the accepted level in hospitals. With healthcare-associated infections killing an estimated 99,000 individuals annually in the United States alone, this new statistic isn’t exactly comforting.

This brings to mind the individuals frequently who attack those of us who are trying to inform others about the threats of healthcare-associated infections and what can be done to prevent them. While the majority of healthcare professionals I have conversed with are supportive of such endeavors, I have encountered a small minority who are quick to point out that they are not the ones to blame; MRSA and other microbial infections can be acquired anywhere—from the city bus to the gym. While I often try to reiterate the fact that we are not pointing fingers, the important lesson that can be taken from this study’s findings is that yes, bacteria is everywhere, and we therefore need to be alert in order to engage in precautionary behaviors to prevent infection. This is especially true when dealing with individuals with compromised immune systems, whether they are located in a healthcare setting, or on the street.

As for the other relevant findings of this study, researchers concluded that the lowest bacteria levels were found on headboards, curtain rods, and bathroom door handles. The finding about bathroom door handles is also consistent with the findings from the University of Arizona study on contaminated items in hospital rooms.

The important conclusion to draw from such studies resides in the fact that we need to be more aware of sanitizing items that are frequently handled without much thought, such as the TV remote. By engaging in preventative behaviors in our everyday life, we are not only ensuring our personal health and safety, but also making such behaviors habitual, which will in turn be beneficial in healthcare settings. From hospitals to hotel rooms, infection prevention requires the active cooperation of humans against the common microbial enemy.

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3 Responses to “Hospital TV Remote Controls Carry More Bugs Than Toilet Bowl Handles”

  1. toni wolcott says:

    an issue that has not been addressed is things that are not sterile like slides My husband came down with MRSA after a doctor in an er took a slide out of his pocket and rubbed it on an open wound. he came down with it in his blood and has been fighting it since. Has been hospitalized numerous times .

  2. Elizabeth Elmasian says:

    Thank you for being so informative on such a an unspoken “taboo” subject. You are correct, there is a small percentage of people who feel that you are “pointing the finger.” This isn’t about liability, it is about being informed so we can all stay healthy. We need to be cognizant of the all dangers that may pose a threat to us.

    Again, thank you for your contribution.

  3. Emily Croke says:

    Thank you for reading my posts and sharing the important information with others. I appreciate all the support, especially in terms of getting everyone on the same page. Through cooperation and working together, medical professionals and patients can work together to improve patient safety, the efficiency and success of the healthcare industry, and most importantly save lives. Being on the receiving end of healthcare, we need to be proactive with our health, focusing on maintaining healthier bodies, and thus reducing the need for medical treatment at later stages of disease and illness. Doing so will not only promote our health, but will make the jobs of medical professionals easier, and thus create less opportunity for error to occur. Thanks again!

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