Going to the doctor – despite our best efforts, everyone has to do it at some point – whether you go for vaccinations, sports or work physicals, or you’re just plain sick. Some pediatricians have separate waiting rooms for well visits and sick visits, but very few other types of doctors have this option. Typical primary care doctors only have one waiting room and it doesn’t matter if you’re there because you think you have strep throat or if you have to be there because your new job requires you to get a physical.
Turnover at your Doctor’s Office
So how many patients does a typical primary care doctor have under their care? According to an article in the 2012 Annals of Family Medicine, the average primary care doctor has 2,300 patients under his or her care. That’s a lot of people for one doctor; now just imagine a practice with 4 doctors … that’s almost 10,000 patients for that practice. The articled goes on to state that on average, primary care doctors see about 20 patients per day. While most patients go to the doctor only 3 or 4 times per year, during cold and flu season, the number of patients seen per day can be more than triple that of any other time of the year – a contributing factor the overcrowding of waiting rooms in early Spring.
How to Avoid the Germs
Unfortunately, crowded waiting rooms with no separation for sick and healthy patients means that it can be easy to pick up more than just a prescription at your doctors’ office. If someone came in sick, the odds are very high that the bacteria and pathogens they brought along with them will remain in the doctor’s office long after they leave. There are a few things you can to do to significantly reduce your chances:
- If possible, try to schedule an appointment early in the morning – germs build up throughout the day, so the earlier the better
- Wash your hands or using Hand Sanitizer often, especially when going between the waiting room and the exam room
- Avoid letting your child play with waiting room toys provided by the office – instead, bring a few toys of your own that can easily be cleaned and try not to encourage sharing.
- Leave the magazines provided by the office in their racks or on the tables – bring your own reading material and try not to put it down on the side tables if possible.
In February 2015, the CDC made an alarming discovery: the bacteria, C. difficile, was infecting people who hadn’t recently been in a hospital (where the bacteria is usually found), but who had recently been to their doctor or dentist. To prevent contracting the disease, the CDC says your best line of defense is washing your hands with soap and water for an extended period of time. The use of alcohol-based sanitizers do nothing against this particular bacteria, but the bottom line is this – avoid touching anything you don’t have to at the doctor’s office and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as often as possible. Many people avoid going to the doctor’s office as long as much as possible, and this is obviously helpful when you have the common cold or some other minor ailment. Eventually, you will find yourself in a doctor’s office –remember, you never know what crazy germs are lingering, but you can never do too much to avoid them.