October 09, 2023 2 min read

Did you know that due to the prevalence of harmful bacteria and viruses in the environment, as much as 30% of the world’s population are carriers of Staphylococcus aureus?

Like many bacteria and viruses, Staphylococcus aureus is typically carried on a person’s skin and inside their nose. With a physiotherapy setting being such a high-touch environment and a heavy user of shared equipment, it’s crucial that we adopt a stringent hygiene practice — even more so these days with a heightened awareness among consumers.

A 2011 study performed on therapy tables found 38 different species of bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Given our eyes, nose and mouth are express lanes for all kinds of bacteria, viruses and diseases, more recent research has started to focus on the face hole of the therapy bed — an area with a high risk of exposure and cross contamination.

In a recent study, random swabs of the internal part of the face hole were taken from five different therapy beds, from five different private clinics across Australia. Only four out of the five beds used a protection barrier for the face hole and it was the paper-based head sheets you’ve probably seen a hundred times before. Unfortunately, this option doesn’t fully cover the inner surface of the face hole where a client may cough, spit or salivate during therapy. And, more often than not, paper-based head sheets move and tear during treatment.

All swabs were sent to an independent lab for analysis.

Here’s what the lab found on the swabs:

  • Rhinovirus, the common cold, was found on one of the beds.
  • Two of the beds tested positive for Staphylococcus aureus.
  • Of these two beds one was infected with MRSA.
  • All beds showed non-harmful bacteria, including skins cells and skin flora.

Further research has shown that not only was saliva (and therefore any saliva-transmitted pathogen) present in the face hole after every single prone treatment but that the saliva remained there even after the face hole had been wiped with an antibacterial wipe.

It's clear, therefore, that if the face hole of your therapy bed isn’t 100% covered by a fit-for-purpose protection barrier, you're exposing your clients to any number of bacteria that will be lurking there. As physiotherapists we have a duty of care and a responsibility to our clients!

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