By Don McCann, MA, LMT, LMHC, CSETT
The COVID-19 is at least two times (2x) more contagious than the flu. This creates real challenges for us to minimize the possibility of contagion in our massage offices. Before a client even sets foot in our office, we need to prepare the by eliminating as many pathogens as possible. This is going to require some changes. Many of the comfortable items we have in our offices make it difficult to sanitize and disinfect. We need to set a stage that is easily sanitized and disinfected before and after each client.
In the future you will finally be able to reopen your office and begin booking clients. In preparation for that moment now is the time to make some important decisions for everyone’s health and safety. The first step is going to be deciding on a quality proven disinfectant. Choosing one that won’t be toxic on the skin is important as there could be an adverse reaction. In my office we use Benefect Decon 30 (Thymol) which takes care of 99.99% of pathogens and is non-toxic to humans. There are a lot of other disinfectants that can be used to sanitize. Just be sure that they are effective and will not cause adverse reactions for you or your clients.
The good news is COVID-19 dissolves with soap and water. This will be extremely helpful when washing and disinfecting laundry. I suggest you use a high grade laundry detergent with hot water and high heat when drying sheets, blankets, towels, face cradle covers, and clothes. Anything we use that a client can come in contact with will need to be disinfected and sanitized between each session. This unfortunately will make using nice fluffy table covers under our sheets or heating pads impractical as they would need to be cleaned and disinfected after each client.
Having at least 40 minutes between clients to disinfect and sanitize your office and treatment room is recommended. Implementing a scheduling policy where multiple clients do not wait in your waiting rooms unless secure social distancing of a minimum of 6’ is possible is important. Staggering the scheduling for sessions and asking clients to arrive within just a couple of minutes of their scheduled time will help you accomplish this. If possible, taking clients’ temperatures before entering the waiting room is recommended. If they have a fever they can’t receive a treatment and need to reschedule to an appropriate time.
I suggest you have sanitizing wipes available for clients to use when they first enter the office. If clients don’t sit in the waiting room you don’t need to worry about disinfecting chairs. However, anything the client touches will need to be disinfected before the next client can enter the waiting area. This includes water machines, doorknobs, light switches, pens, clipboards, credit cards and credit card machines, computer keyboards and the mouse, and bathrooms. It is recommended that your furniture can be easily wiped down. This makes cloth covered chairs impractical at this time. I suggest you have wood, metal or vinyl chairs so they can be easily disinfected after each client. It is extremely difficult to disinfect magazines and reading material, so it’s going to be necessary to let clients know there will not be reading materials available. If they want to have something to read ask them to bring their own.
Disinfecting your therapy room is extremely important. I suggest you disinfect your sheets before taking them off the table. Spraying both sides in a process that will not allow pathogens to become airborne is advisable. After removing sheets have a plastic liner for your sheet container and put the sheets into the plastic liner. Disinfect your table including face cradle and hi-lo buttons, bolsters, pillows, or anything else you have used or the client has touched.
Only put the amount of skin lubricating oil, lotion or cream that you need for one client in a small container that will only be used that one time for that client. That container needs to be cleaned and sanitized before being used again for another client.
I suggest that you have a minimum number of articles in the areas that clients would reach and touch. It’s important to disinfect these items after each client. This includes your tissue boxes and wastebaskets. Don’t forget to sanitize your light switches and doorknobs. Spraying the floor where a client has stood and walked is also recommended. Good quality air filters are really valuable in helping to keep pathogens down in the air in your room.
Have a check list of the procedures used to sanitize your room and office available for your client to see. This will not only help the client feel more secure, but will help you stay aware of all the areas you need to sanitize, and what you need to do personally.
Using the screening list to check the client for possible exposures or symptoms of COVID-19 is recommended as is having the client sign and date the list. You may also muscle test certain questions if there seems to be uncertainty on the client’s part as to whether he or she has been exposed or has COVID-19 symptoms.
Starting your session by washing your hands with soap and hot water is necessary. Follow this by wearing a mask, gloves, and clean clothing (at least a clean shirt) for each client. Have clients either use a mask or have a towel over the face so if they sneeze or cough any droplets will be contained and not become airborne.
At the end of the session, after your client has left, you need to disinfect yourself. Start with spraying yourself down including your shirt, pants, and soles of your shoes. Then carefully remove your shirt, then your gloves. Put your shirt in a plastic bag and your gloves in a covered wastebasket. Then wash your hands and put on a clean shirt.
These are some suggestions for starting to make your work environment safe and nurturing. Hopefully they will make you aware of how many ways you can be careful and guarantee your own safety and the safety of your clients. Now you can do your magic with your hands with the confidence of knowing you have done your best to create a safe, healing environment, both for you and your clients.
Make sure to document and put into your files the completed screening form signed and dated by the client. It is also recommended that you have a disclaimer form that releases you from any liability for the unintentional exposure due to COVID-19 caused by misinformation either given to you by the client or provided on a health history form, also signed and dated by the client.
These are suggestions most of which we will be using in my office. I hope they have given you ideas on how to safely open your office. If you would like copies of our checklist and disclaimer CLICK HERE to download and print.