Learn How to Protect Yourself and Your Family from Hospital Infections
I have collected a list of preventative measures you can take for yourself, your children, your parents, and your loved ones before, during, and after their stay in the hospital to minimize exposure to Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) and associated superbugs like MRSA.
- Your own hands. Scrub for at least 15 seconds with warm water and soap. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer if you can't get to a sink to use soap and water.
- Beginning three to five days before surgery, shower daily with 4 percent chlorhexidine soap, available over the counter at your local pharmacy.
- Once you're at the hospital: Ask anyone who is going to touch you to wash their hands first, in your presence. Due this whether the person is a doctor or nurse who is examining you, or visitors who want to hug you, pat your arm, help you dress, etc. Don't be shy! Your life is worth a tiny moment of embarrassment.
- Make sure hospital staff scrub the planned incision site before surgery, because scalpels and other surgical instruments can drag bacteria on the surrounding skin's surface into the incision.
- A common source of cross contamination bacteria are stethoscopes, which caregivers often do not clean between patients, so ask for it — and any other medical equipment — to be cleaned in your presence.
- Make sure hospital staff cleans and disinfects any surfaces you may come in contact with, such as bed rails, privacy curtains, and sinks. Avoid setting food or utensils on the furniture or bed.
- Make sure IV equipment is cleaned properly when inserted and removed, and that it a new, clean one is inserted at least every 3 to 4 days. If any redness appears at the IV site, alert hospital staff immediately.
- Keep an eye on wound dressings and drainage tubes, and tell a caregiver right away if they become loose or wet.
- Avoid getting a urinary catheter if at all possible. If you have a catheter, ask if it can be removed within a day or two - the sooner, the better.
- Get tested for for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) at least a week before you enter the hospital. You could have MRSA already and not know it! It's important to find this out ahead of time.
- Have your blood sugar under control if you have diabetes.
- Ask your doctor about taking an antibiotic before surgery. For many surgeries, you can receive an antibiotic an hour or so before your surgery to help prevent a surgical site infection.
- If hair has to be removed, use electric clippers on the day of surgery instead of razors, because razors are more likely to leave nicks in your skin through which you can be exposed to the bacteria that cause infection.
- Ask your doctor about keeping you warm during surgery. Obviously, you won't notice the cold while under anesthesia, but studies have shown that the simple step of keeping surgical patients warm reduces the likelihood of infection.
- Ask anyone who is coughing to wear a mask or stay at least six feet away from you so you won't get an infection that is transmitted through the air.
- Even though their visits may cheer you up, if family and friends are feeling unwell, ask them to wait to visit you until they are better. Talk to them on the phone instead.