Tube Feeds and COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to impact our communities and healthcare systems, we wanted to turn our focus this week to how individuals with feed tubes and can stay safe and healthy during the pandemic. The best way to prevent getting the virus is to avoid being exposed from it. However this is a difficult task when you have to get groceries, supplies, etc. Here are some tips to try to prevent contamination and to stay extra safe during these times!

Washing Your Hands!

Hand washing is one of the best ways to protect yourself! Did you know there is a specific way to wash your hands? Here are some tips from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) on the best way to do it:

  1. Wet your hands with running water and then apply soap.
  2. Rub your hands together with the soap. Make sure to get the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails.
  3. Now scrub your hands for 20 seconds. A good reference song for time is the “Happy Birthday” song!
  4. Rinse your hands with water.
  5. Dry your hands with a clean towel or a drier.

When are some crucial times to wash your hands to prevent COVID-19?

-After you have been in a public place or touched surfaces that have been touched by others.
-Before you touch your face after being in public!
-Before handling your tube and administering formula, meds, or water flushes.

Sanitizer vs. Hand Washing

Washing your hands is the best way to prevent germs, but if that is not an available option using alcohol based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is also acceptable.

Cleaning Tube Sets

COVID-19 has caused multiples disruptions to the healthcare system including some shortages on feeding tube sets and bags and some types of formulas. This is in part because severe cases COVID-19 have caused an increase in ventilator use and those individuals require tube feeds as well. Now is the time to make extra precautions if you’re having to reuse your set! Here are some tips:

  • Always wash your hands and clean the surface around where you will be cleaning the tube. This is the best way to prevent disease spread from contamination.
  • Soak the tubing set in warm water with soap and don’t forget to clean the outside of the tube too! Fight the urge to only rinse the tubing until it looks “clean”.
    • What soap should you use? Regular dish soap is sufficient!
    • This is especially important to prevent COVID because the outside of the tube could have touched a surface that has been in contact with the virus.
  • You can use an endoscopy or cleaning brush to get any extra food or formula residues out.
  • Do a deep clean once a week! This can be done by soaking the extension tube and syringes in full strength vinegar for 20 minutes. Then rinse with warm water and air dry
  • Communicate issues with your provider. See if your doctor or dietitian can order a different type of tubing set if your set has a shortage.

For more information about clean tubing or tube sites (stomas), check out this post.

Formula Contamination

Let’s talk about open vs closed containers!

Opened containers should be stored in the refrigerator and because they are exposed to the environment they should be covered. This also helps to prevent bacterial diseases! An example of this would any type of tube feed formula or homemade tube feed that is then poured into a bag or syringe.

 Closed containers are not exposed to the environment so they can be stored in a dry place at room temperature and have a very low contamination risk. An example of this would be a 1 liter bag that you spike with a tube to connect them.

Because open containers expose the tube feed formula to the environment you want to be aware of the environment that you are administering them in. Since COVID-19 is spread though droplets, those droplets can contaminate any surface they land on. Avoid administering these types of tube feeds in public placed during the pandemic. If there are people around you, such as family and friends, make sure they wear a mask while you are pouring tube feed and have not had any exposures to someone with COVID-19.

What to Wipe Down

Whether you use formula or blend food at the store, you should take some extra precautions when bringing these items into your home. Some items may be touched by other people and they may be unknowingly spreading the virus. Last week at the grocery store I watched a woman and her husband pick through the grapes inside of a grape bags!

Here are some tips to keep in mind when bring foods into your home:

-Wipe down the outside of products. This includes fresh produce containers, bags, and cans.

-For fresh produce, a rinse under water is all that is needed.

-Don’t use harsh chemicals on your food! Do NOT clean your foods with bleach or try to consume bleach.

-Opt for antiviral wipes 

-Wash any countertops, tables, or surfaces that came in contact with the groceries.

-Of course, wash your hands when you get back from a public place!

Tube Feed Supplies Shortage

If you or someone you have has been experiencing shortages, The Oley Foundation is offering an equipment and supply exchange program along with other resources.

This is done by:

  • Families in need of donations connect with donors to make arrangements to pick up supplies or pay for shipping. Paying for shipping would be the only cost to individuals in need.
  • It relies solely on donations.
  • Supplies vary daily.
  • This is not for immediate needs as it can take up to 2 weeks for supplies to be delivered.

Link for this program to sign up and more information:

Disclaimer: This blog is for education purposes only and is not meant to replace medical advice. If you are feeling sick or having issues with your tube feed contact your doctor for further help. 

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