Musical Instruments Transmit Oral Germs

Thank goodness for Spring! This winter has been a brutal season full or colds, flu, strep, pneumonia and countless other easily transmittable illnesses.  I frequently and lovingly, refer to my elementary school children as “germ infected little monsters”. Kids pass germs routinely at school, therefore, they bring them home to families. Children frequently try their hand at a musical instrument in grade school. Musical instruments are typically rented, rather than purchased for early musicians. Therefore, used musical instruments transmit oral germs.

Many germs are transmitted via oral and nasal secretions. The best way to contain the spread of germs is by washing our hands and covering our mouth/ nose when we cough or sneeze. Unfortunately, bacteria, viruses and mold can fester and breed on the mouthpieces and within the housing of woodwind and brass musical instruments. This causes the transmission of cavity and periodontal disease causing bacteria, as well as viruses and fungi. Oral yeast infections and illness can occur. Asthma too can result from mold and even a condition known as saxophone lung which is a type of pneumonia caused by a fungus that invade wind instruments.

What We Can Do

Some Some public health departments, colleges and high schools have protocol in place for disinfecting used instruments. UNLV, (University of Las Vegas) has a valuable online source with recommendations. Additionally, the Oklahoma State Department of Health,  and the Massachusetts Music Educators Association gave great resources. Some recommendations include the following:

  • Each student should have their own instrument or mouthpiece if possible
  • Reeds should NEVER be shared.
  • Instruments should be wiped out to reduce moisture after every use.
  • Thorough cleaning of all aspects should be performed weekly.
  • All aspects of the instrument should be cleaned with a mild soap and water or antimicrobial wipes.
  • Rubber pieces can be cleaned with a hydrogen peroxide/ water or vinegar/water solutions.
  • Use pipe cleaners or bottle brushes to access the interior aspects of instruments.

It is too easy for musical instruments transmit oral germs. We can take relatively simple actions to prevent infection. Playing a musical instrument can help to nourish and cultivate our children. However, we need not nourish and cultivate microbes at the expense of personal health.


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