Ask Dr. K

May 25, 2012

Best prevention for MRSA infection is frequent hand-washing


MRSA infections usually are passed first to your hands. Therefore, the best prevention against MRSA is frequent hand washing. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleanser. If you're visiting someone in a health care facility, this is especially important. I'm in the hospital every day, and I avoid touching anything I don't need to, such as the railing on the stairs. After I touch something I have to touch, like a doorknob, I use an alcohol-based hand cleanser.

When visiting a person in a hospital or nursing home, thoroughly wash your hands before and after your visit. Strictly follow any instructions posted outside the room. These may cover contact precautions. You may need to wear protective gloves and a full gown during the visit. When leaving the room, leave the gloves and gown inside the room in specially marked containers.

If you take precautions, you'll be safe. I know -- I've worked with patients at risk for carrying MRSA for decades, and I've never had a MRSA infection.

Dr. Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. To send questions, go to, or write: Ask Doctor K, 10 Shattuck St., Second Floor, Boston, MA 02115.

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