Stethoscope covers, also known as warmers or socks, are fabric or fiber covers which are slipped over the tubing to protect the PVC or rubber from deterioration. PVC and rubber cracks, stiffens and discolors after a time due to exposure to oils found in the skin and general wear and tear from handling and usage. There is controversy over whether or not using a stethoscope cover is sanitary and some medical establishments have banned their use.
Patterns are available for those with knitting skills to knit a stethoscope cover out of yarn. A knitted cover is essentially just a stretchy tube that fits over and protects the chestpiece, also called the head. They are pulled up over the tubing and secured above the joint connecting the binaurals, or ear tubes. The joint between the binaurals is typically a Y-shape or a Y-shape with a bar connected horizontally to the binaurals. This joint makes the perfect location for a square of hook and loop tape to be applied, with the sticky, adhesive side attached to the outward-facing side of the joint. The other half of the hook and loop tape should be attached to the inside top of the cover where it can attach to the piece on the stethoscope. This will keep the cover from sliding down the tubing. Knitted covers can be made in any tightly woven yarn color.
Fabric stethoscope covers are usually easy to sew without the use of a pattern due to the simplistic nature of the cover design. The cover is just a tube of fabric with a casing at the bottom of the cover and a square of hook and loop tape at the top to secure the cover at the joint between the binaurals. You need only to fold the fabric in half and sew a straight seam along the open side. You should also fold the bottom of the tube up to form a hem and sew the casing shut, leaving just a small opening through which you will feed the protective elastic cover that goes inside. As with the knitted cover, a square of hook and loop tape will be adhered to the inside top of the cover to connect with the piece on the stethoscope.
Due to sanitization concerns, many hospitals and medical offices have banned the use of stethoscope covers. Infections and bacteria have been found on fabric covers and it is hard to regulate individual laundering practices for each stethoscope cover. Check with your supervisor before using a cover on your stethoscope.
Laundering Stethoscope Covers
A stethoscope itself can be disinfected with a solution of at least 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, but washing fabric or fiber covers is more tricky. Because stethoscopes should be disinfected between each patient, using a stethoscope cover requires the use of multiple covers in order to ensure sanitary conditions. Home washing machines do not reach hot enough temperatures to completely eradicate bacteria. Conditions such as ringworm and salmonellosis have been found on improperly laundered fabrics in hospital environments. Stethoscope covers should be laundered in hospital laundering facilities to ensure temperatures are adequate to kill harmful bacteria. Washing covers at home may contaminate your home washing machine and laundry, as well as cross-contaminate patients with germs.
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