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The AAP Just Announced New Rules for Pediatric Waiting Rooms

Photograph by Twenty20

Taking a child to see their pediatrician can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially during cold and flu season, when bacteria is flying around the room like an inflatable air dancer. Oh sure, you can stuff your purse with antibacterial soap and bleach-infused wipes, but it shouldn't be necessary when you're sitting inside of a medical facility that is supposed to be sterile—right?

Turns out, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees and is in the process of updating their recommendations to prevent the spread of germs during those visits.

The policy statement, "Infection Prevention and Control in Pediatric Ambulatory Settings," published in the November 2017 issue of Pediatrics, declares that outpatient facilities and doctors' offices should be just as strict as hospitals when it comes to infection control. In fact, the new recommendations are now demanding that all waiting rooms be equipped with alcohol-based sanitizers and masks to assist those patients who can't hold in a sneeze, cough or simply need a little help keeping their germs in check.

In addition, the AAP will endorse mandatory flu shots for all employees annually and a verification of immunization (or immunity) against other vaccine-preventable infections, including pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella and hepatitis B.

In addition to updating its internal policies, the AAP is also asking pediatricians to post visual reminders for patients to cover their noses and mouths with an elbow rather than their hands when coughing and sneezing. Though (hopefully) unnecessary, the visible displays should also serve as a reminder to properly dispose of tissues.

The new proposal also includes specific precautions for cystic fibrosis patients, whose lungs are especially vulnerable to drug-resistant bacterial infections. For their safety, the AAP recommends placing those patients directly into the exam room.

Among other recommendations, which include proper hygiene for medical staff and for handling infectious materials, the report urges doctors not to stock their waiting rooms with plush toys, which are a haven for microorganisms. Instead, parents are encouraged to bring their own toys, specifically those made with fabric.

It’s just one more thing for Mom to stick in her purse. Chances are it was already in there, though, right next to the wipes she will continue to pack in case the doctor's office forgets theirs.

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