Healthcare Associated infections Prevention

Epidemiology and Informatics
Public Health

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What you need to know

Preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) requires multiple approaches. However, everyone can take these steps to reduce the risks of getting an HAI and infecting others:

Sections on this page

    Keep Hands Clean 

    • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub. Learn the specific times when you should only use soap and water.
    • Make sure that healthcare providers clean their hands too. Doctors, nurses, dentists, and other people who care for you come into contact with lots of bacteria and viruses. So before they treat you, politely ask them if they have cleaned their hands.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask care providers to wear gloves, especially if they will be doing tasks such as taking blood or touching wounds or other body openings.
    • Remind your visitors to clean their hands:
      • Before and after their visit and throughout their visit
      • If they touch their nose or mouth
      • After using the bathroom

    Understand Your Care (or Your Loved Ones' Care)

    • Ask your healthcare provider to explain the condition or procedure carefully, as well as any possible complications.
    • Ask your healthcare provider what specific steps he/she takes to prevent infections as well as what you can do to prevent infections before, during, and after your visit.

    Be a Good Visitor

    • Stay home if you are sick
    • Follow special precautions if needed (such as wearing a mask or other protective clothing)
    • Check first before bringing food, flowers, or young visitors, and
    • Sneeze and cough into your elbow, not your hand.

    Do Not Share Personal Items

    • Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, washcloths, razors, clothing, blood glucose monitors, etc. with others.

    Protect Your Skin

    • It is important to take good care of your skin. It is the body’s first line of defense against infection.
    • If you have wounds or cuts, make sure the bandages are changed regularly, and follow your healthcare provider's instructions on proper care of the wound.

    If You Have a Drain or Catheter

    • Ask your doctor or other healthcare provider to explain why you need the catheter or drain and how to avoid infection.
    • Follow instructions for the care of the catheter or drain to keep it working as it should and to keep it clean and free of germs.
    • Check the catheter or drain often. If the bandage becomes wet or dirty, or the catheter or drain falls out, tell your healthcare provider.
    • Work with your healthcare provider to make sure that the catheter or drain is removed as soon as it is no longer medically needed.

    Cover Your Mouth and Nose When you Cough or Sneeze. Encourage others to do the same.

    • When you sneeze or cough, the germs can travel three feet or more!
    • Use a tissue and perform hand hygiene every time after you cough or sneeze.
    • No tissue? Cover your mouth and nose with the bend of your elbow. If you use your hands, clean them right away.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible. Many germs that cause respiratory or gastrointestinal illness spread that way.

    If You Are Sick, Avoid Close Contact with Others

    • Stay home. Generally, people should stay home from work or school until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen).
    • Don't shake hands or touch others. Perform hand hygiene more often.
    • Before you visit a healthcare provider, call to let them know you are ill. Healthcare providers might ask you to take extra precautions (such as wearing a mask) before entering the facility and while you are in the waiting room to further protect yourself and others.

    Get Vaccinated to Avoid Disease and Prevent the Spread of Infection

    • Know which vaccines you get every year (like the flu shot) and which provide long-term immunity.
    • Make sure you are up-to-date on your vaccinations by checking with your healthcare provider.

    Help Prevent Antibiotic Resistance