Skip to Content

Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infection


A central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI)

happens when a virus or bacteria get into your bloodstream through a central line. A CLABSI can cause a fever and chills. You may also develop pain, redness, swelling, or pus where the catheter was inserted.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your heart feels like it is beating faster than normal.
  • You feel dizzy or faint.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fever or swelling, redness, pain, or pus where the catheter was inserted.
  • Your symptoms do not get better after treatment.
  • You cannot flush your central line, or you feel pain when you flush your central line.
  • You see a hole or crack in the tubing of your central line.
  • You run out of supplies to care for your central line.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for a CLABSI

may include removing or changing your central line. You may also need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics help treat a bacterial infection.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her 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.

Prevent a CLABSI:

  • Wash your hands often. Always wash before and after you touch your central line. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Tell others to wash their hands before and after they visit.
  • Limit contact with your central line. Only touch your central line to give medicine or clean the parts. Do not let others touch your central line or tubing. Secure the line to your skin. This will help prevent it from moving or causing skin damage that could lead to an infection. Keep the tubing clamped when not in use. The clamp will prevent air and water from getting into your catheter.
  • Clean your skin. Clean your skin every time you change your dressing. Follow directions from your healthcare provider about how to clean your skin. You may need another person to help you. Check your skin each day for signs of infection. Look for redness, swelling, pus, or fluid. Report any pain at the insertion site or signs of infection to your healthcare provider right away.
  • Keep the catheter site dry. Cover the site with a waterproof dressing before you shower. Do not swim, take a bath, or soak in a hot tub. These actions can cause germs to get into your catheter. Change your dressing as directed, and any time it becomes wet, dirty, or moves out of place.
  • Change and clean the caps and tubing. You may need extra tubing to get your medicine. Ask your healthcare provider when and how to change the tubing and caps. Clean the caps before and after each use as directed.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 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 IBM Watson Health

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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.