Beard bacteria in hospitals a growing concern - News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Beard bacteria in hospitals a growing concern

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From the playoff beard to masculine mane's that are long enough to curl and style, facial hair is everywhere.

Compared to beards, the clean shaven look is literally cleaner.

A study published in Orthopedics medical journal in 2016 shows someone with a beard has 5X more"staph" bacteria than someone with a clean shaven face.
That bacteria has hospitals concerned.

"In the past they never worried about that. They never worried about beards. Your hair has always been covered but no one ever thought about facial hair," said Director Surgical Services at St. E's Boardman Michelle Aurin.

New research, as recent as 2016 has changed that.

In the operating room section of of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Boardman,the men are so covered, it's hard to even see if there's a beard underneath the hoods and masks.

Some bacteria also sits on the skin, so beard or no beard, everyone in surgery wears a mask.

In sterilization rooms, each person is covered head to toe.

"That hair could have bacteria in it and it sheds. The skin cells could shed off and be in those trays. When you sterilize that it doesn't sterilize human hairs," said Aurin.

One hair, even as short as a beard hair in surgery, could cause an infection.

"Infections can cause a whole host of different things with patients and ultimately it can cause a patient to lose a limb or a life so we take infection control really seriously," said Aurin.

While visiting patients in the hospital, open wounds are usually treated and dressed, eliminating the threat of hair bacteria.

At home, near vulnerable loved ones, your whiskers still pose a threat, but not a severe one.

"If you had a cut or something, yeah, you could probably pick something up but honestly, most people at home are used to the bacteria in their home and their own bacteria," said Aurin.

While you can't sterilize beards, doctors advise keeping your beard washed and cleaned, just like the hair on your head.
But if you want to choose to shave your worries away... the mustache, goatee or handlebar look is up to you.

The study referenced did show, while beards had more organisms.

They shed a similar amount of bacteria as someone who was clean shaven.

But the hospital says, any hair longer than an eyebrow poses a threat in surgery.

Mercy health officials say they're also looking into research that could change the way arms are covered in a hospital setting.

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