Your Hospital Stay: Preventing Common Infections

This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice or to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease or condition. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider.

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Preventing Common Infections During Your Hospital

According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 25 hospital patients gets an infection. Infections can be life threatening, but there are several safety precautions you can take to prevent infection. Quitting smoking and practicing good hand hygiene are two of the most important ways to prevent infection

Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections: A central line (or catheter) is a tube placed into a patient’s vein to draw blood or to give medications or fluids. If bacteria enter the bloodstream through this central line, patients can get an infection causing fever, or soreness and redness around the skin where the central line was placed.

Prevention​: Ask how long you will need the central line. It should be removed as soon as it’s no longer needed. Practice good hand hygiene and ask those around you, including your healthcare team, to wash their hands before coming into contact with you. Tell your nurse if the bandage or tape around the central line comes off, or gets wet or dirty. If you have any soreness on the skin around your central line or you notice any redness, tell your nurse or doctor immediately.

Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP): This is an infection of the lungs that develops because a patient was put on a ventilator. A ventilator can help a patient breathe by providing oxygen into the lungs, but it also increases the risk of germs entering the lungs, which can cause pneumonia.

Prevention​: You can prevent this infection by quitting smoking prior to surgery or admission into the hospital, by practicing good hand hygiene (and asking caregivers and the healthcare team to do the same), and by asking your caregiver to keep the hospital bed raised between 30 and 45 degrees and make sure the ventilator is taken off as soon as it’s no longer needed.

Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): A catheter is a tube placed into the bladder to drain urine into a bag outside of the body. A urinary catheter can cause an infection if germs enter the urinary system while the catheter is in. The urinary system includes the bladder and kidneys.

Prevention​: Ask how long you will need the catheter. It should be removed as soon as it’s no longer needed. Practice good hand hygiene and ask those around you to do the same. Make sure the urine bag is lower than your bladder so that urine doesn’t flow back into the bladder. Be careful not to pull the catheter tube out by accidentally tugging or pulling it. Don’t twist or cause a kink in the catheter tube. Be aware of symptoms of a urinary tract infection, or UTI, so that you can contact your nurse or doctor immediately. These symptoms include a fever, burning sensation while urinating, increase in the frequency of urination, blood in the urine, or pain in the lower abdomen.

Surgical Site Infections (SSI): A surgical site infection, or SSI is an infection that occurs at the site where the incision was made during surgery. Infections occur when microorganisms (germs) enter the surgical wound. According to the CDC, the chance of developing an SSI is about 1 to 3 percent, and most SSI’s show up within the first 30 days after surgery. While they can be treated, some more serious infections may require additional surgery, and being readmitted to the hospital. It’s important to recognize the warning signs of an infection so that you can call your doctor ​right away​.

Prevention​: In addition to practicing good hand hygiene and not smoking (or quitting), be aware of the signs of infection. These include:

  • ​Pus ​coming from the incision
  • ​A​ bad smell​ coming from the incision
  • ​The incision ​feeling hot​ to the touch
  • There is ​redness ​around the incision
  • The incision area is ​painful or very sore​ to touch
  • ​There is ​swelling​ around the incision
  • ​The incision is ​taking longer to heal​ than expected
  • ​You develop a ​fever
  • Hand Hygiene:

    1) Wet your hands before adding soap.
    2) Lather your hands with plenty of soap for about 40-60 seconds while scrubbing your hands together.
    3) When rubbing your hands with soap, clean your palms, the back of your hands, in between fingers and under your fingernails.
    4) Rinse your hands thoroughly while pointing them down in the water.
    5) Turn off the faucet with a paper towel. Do not touch the faucet (or bathroom doorknob) directly with your hands.
    6) Use a fresh paper towel to dry your hands and then discard it.

    Things to Remember…

    Wash your hands well. And if you notice your healthcare team hasn’t washed their hands with soap and water or a disinfectant upon entering your room, ask them kindly to do so.

  • ​Communicate with your healthcare team if you don’t feel well.
  • ​Tell a nurse if you notice your bandages or dressings are wet, bloody or dirty.
  • ​Tell a nurse if your catheter or central line feels like it’s coming out or is causing discomfort.
  • ​Do deep breathing exercises to help prevent chest infections.
  • Ask family and friends not to visit if they are feeling sick.
  • ​Stay informed and be an active participant in your treatment and recovery plan.
  • ​Make sure you understand your discharge instructions so you know how to take care of yourself upon returning home.
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