Docs: U.K. Coat Ban Alone Won't Stop Infection

U.S. docs say banning white coats isn't the best strategy against deadly germs.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 9:08 PM

Sept. 17, 2007— -- While British doctors are preparing for nationwide dress code changes aimed at reducing the spread of infection in hospitals, U.S. doctors are split as to whether such measures should be tabled here as well.

According to guidelines published Monday that go into effect next year, health officials will urge British hospitals to encourage doctors to stop wearing neckties, long sleeves, jewelry, even their traditional white coats, as part of a "bare below the elbows" approach to cutting infection.

Research has shown that limiting the spread of certain infections by going after the wardrobe makes sense. In 2004, researchers at the New York Hospital Medical Center of Queen's found that nearly half the neckties worn by 42 doctors contained bacteria implicated in dangerous conditions like pneumonia and blood infections.

And the dangling sleeves of the coats may offer yet another way bacteria can spread from one patient in a hospital to another as doctors make their rounds, British health officials believe.

U.S. health authorities aren't moving toward similar rules, but some of the country's physicians support the idea.

"I know of no plans to adopt this measure in the United States, although I have spent my entire 17-year medical career as a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases practicing and promulgating it," says Dr. Paul Krogstad, director of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Training Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "The sleeves, of course, are of particular concern. I have always worn short sleeve shirts for this reason."

"I am not aware of any such plans in the U.S., but it might be good to consider it," says Dr. John Shanley, director of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.

"It is pretty clear that medical staff are major sources of in hospital infections as they move from patient to patient. So I do not think it is unreasonable to ban long sleeves of any kind."