Needle Stick Injuries


  • Needle stick injuries are wounds made by a sudden prick from sharp pointed object such as a needle. These injuries make a small puncture (hole) on the skin. They usually happen on the finger, but may also happen on the hand, arm, or foot. They may cause bleeding, pain, and swelling on the wound site. Needle stick injuries usually happen to healthcare workers in hospitals, clinics, and labs. They may also happen at home or in the community, where needles not properly disposed of. When the needle is dirty it may cause severe (bad) infections. These may include hepatitis (swelling of the liver) and HIV infections.

  • The wound site from a needle stick injury must be washed and cleaned. Caregivers may need to know when and how the injury happened including information on who used the needle. Blood is taken to test how your body is protected from certain infections. Medicines to stop pain, prevent infection, and improve your body defense system may be given. Proper handling of needles and using protective clothing, such as gloves, decreases the risk for needle stick injuries. Having your needle stick injury treated as soon as possible may prevent complications and other medical problems.


Take your medicine as directed.

Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.

  • Antiviral medicines: Antiviral medicine may be given to fight an infection caused by a germ called a virus. One or more antiviral medicines may be given to prevent hepatitis or HIV infection. These medicines may have unpleasant effects. If you are a woman, tell your caregiver if you know or think you might be pregnant. If you are given these medicines, you may need to come back for more blood tests. You may need to get vaccinated again for hepatitis, depending on the results of the tests. Ask your caregiver when to come back for the tests.

  • Immune globulins: This medicine is given as a shot or an IV infusion to make your immune system stronger. You may need immune globulins to treat or prevent an infection. It is also used when you have a chronic condition, such as lupus or arthritis. You may need many weeks of treatment. Each infusion can take from 2 to 5 hours.

  • Over-the-counter pain medicine: You may use over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicines, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, for pain or swelling. These medicines may be bought without a caregiver's order. These medicines are safe for most people to use. However, they can cause serious problems when they are not used correctly. People with certain medical conditions, or using certain other medicines are at a higher risk for problems. Using too much, or using these medicines for longer than the label says can also cause problems. Follow directions on the label carefully. If you have questions, talk to your caregiver.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.


People need to learn to prevent the spread of infection, such as HIV, to others. A trained caregiver may talk to you about your feelings towards your condition. You may be asked to do the following:

  • Avoid getting pregnant if you are a female.

  • Not give blood and blood products, organs, tissue, or semen.

  • Practice safe sex by using condoms.

  • Women who breast feed their babies need to stop breast feeding.

Preventing needle stick injuries:

  • At work:

    • Always use gloves when handling needles that are exposed to blood or other body fluids.

    • Do not put the cap back on a needle, bend or break a needle by hand, or use a cutting device.

    • Get a vaccination against certain diseases, such as hepatitis, for protection.

    • Learn the right way to handle and throw away needles, scalpels, and other sharp objects.

    • Put all sharp objects in a holder marked just for sharp objects. A puncture-proof, closed container with a lid may be used to contain needles. The containers are placed on areas where needles are used. It should be replaced before it becomes overfilled.

  • In the home and community:

    • Frequent cleaning of parks and schoolyards.

    • Educate young children about the dangers of handling or playing with needles and syringes. Teach them not to touch needles and to report found needles to an adult for disposal.

    • Having community programs about addiction treatment and needle exchange programs for injection drug users may be of help.

    • Prevent the spread of HIV infection and hepatitis by giving vaccines. Ask caregivers or visit them for the vaccines that you may need.


Anyone whose work involves sharp objects that come into contact with blood and other body fluids must have vaccines. This is to prevent having infections from germs which may cause hepatitis and HIV. Ask your caregiver for more information about the vaccines that you may need.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Needle Stick Injuries (Aftercare Instructions)