We’ve all crinkled our noses when we’ve caught a whiff of wet clothes that sat in the clothes hamper too long. They smell bad. Our noses are warning us that bacteria are growing in those smelly clothes—and some types of bacteria can be bad for us.
Bacteria in Healthcare Settings
Bacteria in healthcare settings may not just be smelly. Some types of bacteria can be unhealthy and even deadly for patients. That’s why healthcare workers are always on high alert for microbial infections.
Respiratory therapies are an area of particular concern for the growth of bacteria and the spread of infection in health care settings. For instance, bubblers are often used in respiratory therapies to add moisture to breathing gasses before they reach a patient. Bubblers, though, can be a major source of bacterial contamination. Although almost all bubblers use sterile/distilled water, dust and other environmental particulates are introduced when the bubbler’s cap is opened to refill water. When a bacteria-laden bubble bursts, it can cause microbial contamination and potentially lead to transmission of pathogens.
Nosocomial infections, or in other words new infections acquired in hospitals is a topic of high interest given the dangers it presents. They can lead to expensive mortalities and morbidities that are difficult to treat and process for our healthcare system. In fact, among patients with hospital acquired infections, Hospital Acquired Pneumonia is the leading cause of death and causes 22 percent of all hospital-acquired infections. This is why healthcare workers, medical device manufacturers and federal agencies all focus on reducing the risk of bacterial infection in healthcare settings. Hospitals are heavily scrutinized for such occurrences.
It is important to know that in ambient environment, a relative humidity of 40% to 60% is ideal. If the relative humidity goes very low, or very high, the risk of viral infections increases. This is why viral infections see a spike in colder months. Several studies have been performed that show an increase in infection rates among mice when relative humidity is low.
Reducing the Risk of Infection
The Centers for Disease Control provides guidelines on how to maintain sanitary practices to reduce the risk of contamination, but eliminating the possibility of bacteria is difficult. Over the years, both the Food and Drug Administration and manufacturers of medical devices have recalled products due to the danger of bacterial infections.
An Approach to Controlling Bacteria
One way to control bacteria is to control the situations that cause them to thrive. While different types of bacteria need different temperatures and other conditions to grow and survive, they all need nutrients and water, or moisture. Uncontrolled moisture can cause bacteria—including ones that are harmful to humans—to thrive. Controlling moisture to ensure it is only present where necessary and removed when not required can in turn control the growth of bacteria.
Controlling Moisture in Healthcare Settings
Because uncontrolled moisture can lead to unintended and dangerous bacterial growth, which in turn can lead to mortalities and morbidities in patients undergoing respiratory therapies, levers to manage it is vital. When designing medical equipment for respiratory therapies, finding dependable ways to control moisture can go a long way to reducing or even preventing bacterial growth. That in turn leads to a more sanitary environment, better patient outcomes (and less nose crinkling).
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