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Avoiding Infections in Hospitals

 Many lives have been saved at hospitals. But, as one infectious disease doctor points out, hospitals can also make people sick. Hospitals are a hotbed of infections, and it's essential that a visitor or a patient do all they can to stop disease from spreading. 

Infection Control

Every year, 20 million people in the U.S. catch norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea. This disease spreads at a fast pace as billions of virus particles are released and all, it really takes to infect us are just a couple dozen strands. Hospitals have generally found a way to avoid these problems. They have identified potential infectious patients quickly and such patients are isolated. They are put in rooms where the airflow cannot infect others if their infection is airborne. Gloves, masks, eye shields are used to avoid a patient transmitting infections to others. 

But, what more can a patient or a visitor do to keep disease from spreading: 

1. Wash your hands
infections at hospitals

Using soap and water, or a hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol, reduces spreading or catching infections. This should be done before and after seeing a patient. It's something that's easy, but also easy to forget. 

2. Don't touch your face

We tend to touch our face a lot, possibly even 15 times an hour. This spreads bugs from our hands to our nose and to our mouth, spreading fecal-oral and respiratory bugs from diarrheal illnesses to colds. 

3. Be vaccinated
infections at hospitals

Patients are hospitalized because their immune systems cannot handle any other infections. Bear in mind that what may be a touch of the flu to you may be something that another cannot fight off. There are times when healthcare workers spread vaccinable infections to their patients, so it is important that we are vaccinated, ensuring that we protect the most vulnerable. 

4. Stay Home if ill

If you are ill, avoid visiting patients. If you cannot, make sure that sneezes are covered with a tissue paper or upper sleeve. 

Other steps that you can take to reduce risk to healthcare workers and yourself:

Each year, about 385,000 healthcare professionals are pricked by a needle or another sharp object. This means that the risk of HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, or other diseases is possible, albeit low. It is also a risk that no one should have to take. You can help further by doing the following:

5. Never get in a nurse's way
infections at hospitals

Needle stick risks for nurses and doctors rise with distractions. Medical professionals need to concentrate and shouldn't answer questions when they are doing a procedure. 

6. Sharps Boxes: If it says, Don't Touch, don't touch

Within each room of any major hospital is a box or wastebin designed fro sharp objects like needles and scalpels. This protects maintenance personnel and everyone. Sometimes someone with throw something into a sharps bin. But needles don't compress, they can stick you instead. 

7. Antibiotic Resistance
infections at hospitals

Bacteria have been fought off with antibiotics since 1928, but doctors and scientists have since watched bacteria reclaim their turf. They seem to have an assortment of genes that resist antibiotics. If we can reduce infections and antibiotic usage, we can reduce the drug resistance that develops. 

8. Antibiotics: Take as needed and prescribed, only

When it comes to antibiotics bear in mind that if you do need them, you need them, and if you don't, then you don't. If you do need them then you need to take the full amount prescribed. Antibiotic over-usage (and under-usage) leads to resistance and other infections that grow when other bacteria are wiped out with antibiotics. 

9. Extra Infection Control
infections at hospitals
We need to be cautious of not only visible infection but bugs we unknowingly carry, including drug-resistant bacteria. So take extra precautions by washing your hands regularly when visiting patients carrying such infections. 
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