As medical students, we're constantly juggling a plethora of responsibilities. From mastering complex medical concepts to surviving grueling rounds, the journey is nothing short of challenging. Amidst all this, maintaining personal hygiene might seem like a trivial concern. However, it's a crucial aspect that not only affects our health but also our professional image and patient safety. So, let's dive into some science-backed hygiene hacks that every med student should know.
1. Hand Hygiene:
Use a soap that is gentle on the skin yet effective against germs. Look for soaps with antibacterial properties. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers (containing at least 60% alcohol) are a good alternative when soap and water are not available.
Hack: Keep a pocket-sized hand sanitizer with you at all times for those moments when you can't immediately access a sink.
2. White Coat Care:
Use a detergent with antibacterial properties for washing your white coat.
Hack: Add a cup of white vinegar to your wash for an extra disinfecting boost and to keep your coat bright.
3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
Choose masks that fit well and are comfortable for long hours. N95 masks offer the highest level of protection, but surgical masks are also effective.
Hack: Use a mask bracket to prevent your mask from smudging your makeup or causing skin irritation.
4. Stethoscope Sanitation:
Your stethoscope can be a silent carrier of pathogens. A study in the American Journal of Infection Control found that stethoscopes are often contaminated with a myriad of pathogens.
Use 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes to clean your stethoscope.
Hack: Keep a pack of these wipes in your coat pocket for easy access.
5. Hydration and Nutrition:
Invest in a good quality, insulated water bottle to keep your water cool. Pack healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, or protein bars.
Hack: Make your own trail mix with your favorite nuts, dried fruits, and dark chocolate for a quick energy boost.
6. Sleep Hygiene:
Sleep deprivation is common among med students, but it can impair cognitive function and weaken the immune system. Maintain good sleep hygiene by sticking to a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and screens before bedtime, and creating a restful environment.
Use earplugs and an eye mask to create a restful environment.
Hack: Use a white noise or calming rain sounds etc, white noise machine or an app to drown out distracting noises.
7. Mental Hygiene:
Mental health is as important as physical health. Stress can impair your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections.
Consider using mindfulness apps like Headspace or Calm. And remember, its ok to take a break!
Hack: Practice deep breathing exercises during your breaks to reduce stress.
Regular exercise can boost your immune system and also help relieve stress. Even a short walk or a few stretches during your break can make a difference.
Consider investing in a good pair of running shoes and comfortable workout clothes, and maybe even take the initiative to organize a group to work out with!
Hack: Use resistance bands for a quick workout during your breaks. And don't forget to stretch after prolonged sitting!
As healthcare professionals, we're at a higher risk of exposure to infectious diseases. Ensure you're up-to-date with all recommended vaccinations, including seasonal flu shots
Keep a record of your vaccinations to ensure you're up-to-date.
Hack: Set reminders on your phone for any upcoming vaccinations.
10. Dental Hygiene:
Oral health is often overlooked, but it's a vital part of overall health. Poor oral hygiene can lead to dental problems and increase the risk of systemic infections. Brush twice a day, floss regularly, and don't forget your regular dental check-ups!
Use a toothpaste with fluoride and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Consider using an electric toothbrush for a more thorough clean.
Hack: Chew sugar-free gum after meals when you can't brush your teeth.
11. Skin Care:
Our skin is the first line of defense against pathogens. Frequent handwashing and use of sanitizers can cause skin dryness and cracks, which can harbor bacteria. Use a moisturizing hand cream to keep your skin healthy and intact.
Use a moisturizing hand cream that's non-greasy and absorbs quickly.
Hack: Apply hand cream before bed and wear cotton gloves to deeply moisturize your hands.
12. Eye Care:
Long hours of studying and screen time can strain your eyes. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Also, wear protective eyewear when necessary to prevent exposure to infectious agents.
Use lubricating eye drops to soothe dry eyes.
Hack: Adjust the brightness and contrast of your screen to reduce eye strain and consider investing in a pair of blue blocking glasses.
13. Foot Care:
Long hours on your feet can lead to foot problems. Choose comfortable, closed-toe shoes for your rounds. At the end of the day, soak your feet in warm water with Epsom salt to relax your muscles and prevent foot odor.
Invest in comfortable, supportive shoes. Use a foot cream to prevent dryness and cracks.
Hack: Use tea bags to eliminate foot odor. Soak your feet in a tea bath for 15-20 minutes.
14. Respiratory Hygiene:
Maintaining good respiratory hygiene is crucial, especially in a healthcare setting. Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of used tissues immediately and perform hand hygiene.
Hack: Carry a small bottle of mouthwash with you and use it periodically throughout the day, especially after meals. Not only will this keep your breath fresh, but some mouthwashes also have antiseptic properties that can help kill bacteria in your mouth and throat, potentially reducing the spread of germs when you cough or sneeze. Just be sure to choose a non-alcoholic mouthwash to avoid drying out your mouth.
15. Safe Practices:
Always follow safe injection practices and dispose of sharps correctly. In case of a needle stick injury, immediately wash the area with soap and water, and report the incident.
Use a sharps container for disposal of needles.
Hack: If a sharps container isn't immediately available, never recap the needle. Leave it uncapped until you can dispose of it safely.
16. Body Odor:
Body odor can be a sensitive issue, but it's a natural part of human biology. The key is to manage it effectively to maintain personal comfort and professional standards.
Hack: If you prefer not to use deodorant, apply benzoyl peroxide to your armpits. It's an antibacterial cream often used to treat acne, but it can also eliminate the bacteria that cause unpleasant body odor. Just be sure to test it on a small area of skin first to ensure you don't have an adverse reaction.
17. Hair Care:
Choose a shampoo and conditioner that suits your hair type. If you have long hair, consider tying it up during rounds to keep it clean and out of the way.
Hack: Dry shampoo can be a lifesaver on busy days when you don't have time for a full wash. It absorbs excess oil and leaves your hair looking fresh and clean.
18. Nail Care:
Keeping your nails clean and short is essential in healthcare to prevent the spread of bacteria. Use a good quality nail clipper and a gentle nail brush for cleaning.
Hack: If your nails are brittle, soak them in olive oil for 15 minutes a day to help strengthen them.
If you wear makeup, opt for non-comedogenic products that won't clog your pores. Remember to remove your makeup at the end of the day with a gentle makeup remover.
Hack: Use blotting papers throughout the day to absorb excess oil without smudging your makeup.
While it's important to smell fresh, be mindful that strong fragrances can be bothersome to some patients. Opt for a light, fresh scent if you choose to wear perfume or cologne.
Hack: Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to your pulse points before spraying your fragrance. The petroleum jelly will hold the fragrance longer, so you'll smell fresh all day.
Remember, maintaining good hygiene is not just about looking and feeling your best, but it's also a crucial part of patient care. By incorporating these products and hacks into your routine, you'll be setting a high standard of hygiene in your professional life.