Friday Weird Science: Beware the dangerous tie

Today’s weird science comes to you courtesy of reader and friend of the blog Tony! Hi Tony! 🙂
Oh sure, those ties. They LOOK so innocent. Do not be fooled. Especially by the ones that look like this:
Much more dangerous than they appear. Dixon, M. “Neck ties as vectors for nococomial infection” Intensive Care Medicine, 2000.

Really, I must admit, I’ve NEVER understood the tie. Why do men WEAR ties? Why are ties considered formal wear? Do they have a function? I can understand their evolution from the cravat, of course, but why do they continue? It seems odd to me. Ties are dangerous. There’s the obvious choking hazard, the potential blinding of others due to ugliness, I’m sure there’s more. So why? They don’t really look that good.
It is my opinion that ties continue on the fashion world as a male accessory purely so that girls, usually daughters, have something to get their dads on special occasions. I mean, dads are hard to shop for. When it doubt, a TIE! A guy can never have too many ties, right?
And so the tie has persisted, from generation to generation, as a symbol of professional dress, and a certain rite of passage for men everywhere as to how exactly you tie one. In particular, today we would like to focus on the professionality of the tie.
Male doctors (some of them) wear ties. Perhaps pediatricians wear ties with amusing things on them. But ties are not necessarily…the most sanitary things. After all, every single tie that Sci has come across is dry-clean only. And please, they’re TIES. It’s not like they get BO on them. So guys probably wear ties for a good number of times before sending them to the wash, if indeed they EVER send them to the wash. Unfortunately, if you’re a doctor, and you’re wearing a tie, this could mean you’ve got some nasty bugs on there.
So a doctor in an intensive care unit decided to blot the ties of his staff, to see what was growin’. I totally want to blog someone’s tie. Just clothing in general. I would be very entertained.
And stuff…was growing. Only 5 ties, but two of them have high levels of staph, one had moderate levels of staph and high levels of citreus. All came up positive for staph in at least some amount.
And this could be a problem. I mean, I imagine that when most doctors are wearing ties, and come into contact with patients, there are very careful with their ties. You don’t want a tie slapping someone in the face, it’s just rude. And I’m sure doctors are well aware of the danger that people in the ICU could face coming in contact with stuff that doctors are wearing.
So this paper suggested that doctors in the ICU not wear ties. As this comment was published in 2000, I was wondering what kind of impact it made. And so I ask the doctors: do you believe this correspondance? Do you wear a tie? Do doctors now worry about ties and possible routes of infection? And WHY, oh WHY, does anyone still wear TIES AT ALL?!
M. Dixon (2000). Neck ties as vectors for nosocomial infection Intesnive Care Medicine, 26, 250-260

23 Responses

  1. What?! I can’t hear you! You are going to have to turn that tie down!

  2. “Why do men WEAR ties?”
    We men often get accused of thinking with our penises. When that happens it is entirely possible that we forgot where penises are and thus we only have to look at where our ties point to find them again. Now you know.

  3. What guy wouldn’t want to walk around with a huge arrow pointing at his crotch?

  4. Similar to what Danimal and Drive-By have put forth:
    I hypothesize that since women are most often the purchasers of the ties, that female-bought arrow pointing down at the crotch is actually supposed to serve as a reminder:
    “Look down. See that? I OWN that, and don’t you forget it!”

  5. Ties are a device to reinforce male hierarchy. Think about it for a moment: entry-level cubicle monkeys stick to pale greens and subtle blues with gentle patterns. As they ascend the corporate ladder, their ties become brighter and louder, announcing dominance. Only the bosses dare wear bright red ties.

  6. So Toaster, does this mean that when one ascends the corporate ladder, there is a deep secret ceremony in some underground cavern where they bestow upon you…the POWER TIE?

  7. Doctors where I live still wear ties. It’s an issue of looking professional, because our society-rules tell us that that’s what professional people wear. You want to be seen by a scruffy looking doctor with an open-necked shirt? Maybe an Aerosmith T-shirt?
    I for one like wearing a tie, not because it points anywhere, but because if it’s tasteful it looks good, and you can’t deny it.
    On the issue of germs and such, culturing Staph is no indication of its infectivity. Patient-patient transfer is more likely to come from doctors/nurses/relatives who don’t wash their hands than from a necktie. Moreover, what you’re quoting is anecdotal at best.
    Some UK NHS trusts are even contemplating banning the wristwatch, for similar reasons. You can’t tell me that a wristwatch has no function, though.

  8. What really drives me crazy is that doctors wear their lab coats EVERYWHERE, including the public cafeteria near my lab. As for the ties, I would wonder at the efficiency of bacterial transfer from patient to tie to patient. Staph is very desiccation tolerant, but that tie would need to make a lot of skin contact. Anyway, something like 30% of hospital staff carry MRSA in their noses so I doubt the tie is a much of a vector in comparison.

  9. Damn you, ties! I’m sure is a conspiracy or something…

  10. I’ll have to ask my mom how often she sends my dad’s ties off to the drycleaners (since I’m pretty sure he’s not the one who does it). As a retiree, he doesn’t wear ties anymore [he was not a doctor], and so I never buy him ties anymore – but it was fun to find unusual ones. I can’t ascribe to JLK’s particular “owning” theory in this case, since he is my dad. 😉

  11. “You want to be seen by a scruffy looking doctor with an open-necked shirt? Maybe an Aerosmith T-shirt?”
    Hell yeah!

  12. To clarify my previous post, I am a jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers kind of guy and whitecoats scare me. The whitecoats also want me to cough or bend over. Talk about raising one’s blood pressure. I own exactly one suit and one tie. The only time I wear a monkey suit (not offense to the monkeys here, e.g. Drug Monkey/Evil Monkey) is when I present at conferences. Then I get all spiffed up and wear suit and tie. To compete with Isis, I complete the ensemble with a pair of naughty monkeys. The pseudonym Danimal represents my name Dan and The Animal (hear me ROAR). So to put hairy legged feminists (Zuska) in there place, I wear, this tie. I reminds womenz, who’s the man, The Animal, Danimal (the sexist little, and I do mean little, bastard)./humor

  13. A lot of doctors used to (still do?) wear tie clips that pin the tie to the shirt, thereby preventing it from dangling in the patient/soup. I’m not a Dr., but I happen to think tie clips make sense (at least from the soup angle). Unfortunately, it is very very difficult nowadays to find a decent looking tie clip (i.e., something with tact, as opposed to ostentatious bling). Maybe if Drs. all started wearing tie clips again there would be a bigger market and therefore a better selection? I hope so.

  14. What is inside the doctor’s head (knowledge & diagnostic skills) is surely more important than whether he dons a necktie or not.
    The necktie is the most redundant piece of clothing worn (in my opinion) & gets in the way of everything (bad memories of school uniform neckties) – the idea that it looks professional may soon be dispelled if it is no longer viewed as an essential piece of clothing worn by the well-dressed! Definitely not laundered as often as other articles of clothing either.
    As for the hands, the rings worn on fingers are also germ catchers [doctors & chefs may want to pursue their occupation without them :)]

  15. I have a post with alot of links that apparently has not been approved yet.

  16. So the bug/doctor contest begins/ends in a tie. I apologize, I couldn’t help myself.

  17. Danimal: hmmm…I checked, all yours are approved so far as I can see…want to try again? I’ll keep looking.

  18. Found it! My spam filter is a tricksy devil. Tricksy.

  19. Ties are out.
    This season, it’s Charvet plaited silk stethoscope tubes.

  20. Thank you for this post. My father was a doctor who always wore a clip on bow tie to work–always a red one. He’d buy then in quantity and toss them when he thought they might be dirty. We used to roll our eyes at his lack of style and laugh when he’d say that he didn’t think neck ties were sanitary–and that they got in the way, but I guess there was something to that. He passed away many years ago, and this made me remember the little red bow ties we made so much fun of.

  21. Ties look like penes – and signify that the wearer is a dick.

  22. You probably didn’t know that when a ties life is over it goes to a thrift shop to die where it and many others are bought by quiltmakers who put them through the washer, pick out the seams, cut them up into pieces and then make very interesting quilted wallhangings, vests, etc. Everything serves a purpose.

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