Ties That Make You Buggy

Published January 1, 2005

Not only may your doctor’s tie be a frightful gift from a friend or well-meaning relative, it may also be a hazard to your health.

Neckties have been found to carry infectious bacteria. Neckties worn by doctors and clinicians were found to be eight times more likely to harbor germs than were those of people not in contact with patients.

That little-known fashion update comes from a study reported by the American Society for Microbiology. A medical student at the Bruce Rappaport Facility of Medicine in Haifa, Israel noticed that physicians’ neckties often come into contact with sick patients or their bedding.

After examining a patient or conducting a procedure the medical student noticed doctors would wash their hands, and then adjust their tie, re-contaminating their hands. The student tested 42 neckties for germs and found significant amounts of infectious bacteria.

While wearing a necktie is encouraged because ties are believed to project an aura of professionalism and increase patients’ confidence, they may not be cleaned as often as other articles of clothing.

Options to reduce the risk of disease transmission include switching to bow-ties or treating ties with a detergent spray.

Since the sample test was so small, scientists are considering further studies with larger sample sizes to confirm the initial findings. Meanwhile, it may be a good idea to forget fashion and abandon wearing neckties altogether.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.