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Preventing Infections

What is an infection?

An infection is an illness that is caused by germs, such as bacteria or a virus. Infections can spread from one person to another through direct contact. For example, you can be infected when you handle money, touch door handles, or use the toilet. Germs can also spread through the air, such as when someone coughs or sneezes.

How can I prevent getting an infection?

Try to stay away from people who are sick. The following will also help prevent an infection:

  • Wash your hands: This is the most important thing you can do to prevent infection. Wash your hands several times each day. Encourage everyone in your house to wash their hands with soap and water after they use the bathroom. Everyone should also wash their hands after they change a child's diaper and before they prepare or eat food.

    • After you wash your hands, gently rub them dry with a clean towel or paper towel. Hold a paper towel in your hand while you turn off the water tap. When you leave the bathroom, hold a paper towel in your hand as you touch the door handle.

    • Use an alcohol-based hand rub for cleaning your hands if there is no water. Carry it with you when you leave the house. Before using a hand rub, wipe dirt off of your hands as much as you can. Your hands should be dry before hand rub is used. Rub your hands together until all of the hand rub liquid has dried up.

  • Get vaccinated: Flu and pneumonia vaccines can help prevent infection. Ask your caregiver for more information about getting vaccinated.

  • Take care of your teeth and mouth:

    • Do not share toothbrushes.

    • Change the water in your denture cup every day if you have dentures.

    • See your dentist at least once a year for a cleaning. This prevents cavities and infections in your mouth.

  • Keep your kitchen clean:

    • Keep foods that can spoil in the refrigerator. Throw away food that is spoiled.

    • Always wash the cutting board carefully after you have put raw meats on it.

    • Use a disinfectant to clean the kitchen counter.

How can I prevent the spread of infection?

Never touch your face or eyes when you are sick or while you are cleaning. Also do the following to prevent the spread of infection:

  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Wash and dry your hands after each cough or sneeze.

  • Wear latex gloves, an apron, and protective glasses when you have to touch blood, spit, bowel movement, or urine. Wash your hands before and after you use gloves, apron, and glasses.

  • Clean up spills of blood or urine as soon as possible. Use a cleaning product with bleach in it. You can also mix a 10% bleach solution. Mix ¼ cup of bleach with 2½ cups of water. Pour the bleach solution on the spill and wait 2 minutes before you wipe it up with paper towels. Throw away any unused bleach solution.

  • Do not eat or drink while you clean up a spill. This is important so that you do not get any germs in your food or drink.

  • Change the water every day in any respiratory equipment, such as a humidifier.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.