Can Playing a Wind/Brass Instrument Be a Source of Recurrent Infections?
Is playing a wind/brass instrument a significant factor for recurrent strep, URI's, sinus infections, etc in people? Is such use contagious? If so, how does one even go about "sterilizing" the instrument after use by a sick person so that they don't infect themself again as well as players around them when blowing into it?
I got asked these questions by one astute parent of a trumpet player. After some inquiries and research, I actually don't have a good answer to whether they may be contagious and a source of germs, though it would make sense that they would be (well-known medical principle being bacteria grows in dark wet areas).
In any case, there are various techniques as well as common sense to try and semi-sterilize the instrument to prevent potential bacterial growth deep in the pipes of wind/brass instruments:
1) Don't share your instrument! Here's a journal article regarding the hazards of sharing instruments.
2) Thoroughly dry out the instrument after use via air and brush.
3) Never play the instrument while you are sick.
4) Replace the reed if it looks nasty. Clean mouthpiece thoroughly daily.
5) Brass instruments can indeed be washed in the bathtub with warm soapy water (not so for silver!)
6) Many players commonly angle their instruments up in the air when playing allowing some fluid to drain back. This practice can create a path for harmful bacteria to make its way back into the mouth from the body of the instrument. Try and avoid doing this!
There is also this one company that claims to help with musical instrument sterilization.
This issue was so concerning in Massachusetts, that a law is being passed to require sterilization of musical instruments in schools! Read more here.
Here's a NPR news article on a trombone player whose instrument caused a chronic cough due to mold contamination.
Do readers have any other suggestions? Please post a comment!
- A microbiological survey into the presence of clnically significant bacteria in the mouthpieces and internal surfaces of woodwind and brass musical instruments. Link
- Horn with nasty microbes. Link