5 things you need to know about hospital infections
Published on February 8, 2015
Millions of people enter the hospital every year for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s the birth of a child, scheduled surgery, or an unexpected emergency, there are certain risks that come with a stay in the hospital. According to the CDC, an estimated 1.7 million people contract infections in U.S. hospital each year. EverydayHealth.com reports 1 in 25 people have at least one healthcare-associated infection on any given day.
This is a major threat to patient safety. These unnecessary infections cost billions of dollars and take the lives of tens of thousands of Americans every year. Studies have shown hospital acquired infections (HAIs) have been declining year over year, but not fast enough. That’s why it’s important that you arm yourself with information. Here are 5 things you need to know about hospital infections:
1.) HAIs don’t only develop in patients who have surgery. One of the easiest ways for infection-causing bacteria to enter your body is through your skin. If you get a central line or central catheter, a tube is placed in a large vein to administer fluids of medication or draw blood. This could cause bloodstream infections to develop if bacteria or other germs enter the bloodstream. These infections can typically be treated with antibiotics, but it’s possible to take steps to reduce these infections, as well. Medical personnel should follow certain protocol such as washing their hands, cleaning the area of the body where the line will be inserted, and removing the catheter as soon as possible.
2.) Taking antibiotics when they’re not needed increases your risk of infections in the future. Antibiotics can’t cure viruses, so if you have the cold or flu, which are caused by viruses, don’t try and coerce your doctor in to prescribing an antibiotic. This can put your health in jeopardy in the future.
3.) You can find out how your hospital’s infection rate compares to others. It’s okay to share your concerns about infections with your doctor before going into the hospital. Ask what the hospital’s infection rate is and what protocols are in place for reducing it. This will show your doctor what’s important, making him or her more mindful of the protocols they should be following. You can also check out Medicare.gov’s Hospital Compare to learn a variety of facts about hospitals you’re considering.
4.) The most common infection patients pick up is pneumonia, followed by gastrointestinal illness, urinary tract infections, primary bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, and more.
5.) Many hospital-acquired infections are preventable. There are even steps you can take to help prevent them. First and foremost, wash your hands thoroughly and often. If you are visiting, wash your hands every time you enter a room. Make sure you see doctors and nurses washing their hands, too. Ask for alcohol or bleach wipes so you can disinfect certain areas of the room such as the TV remote, telephone, bedside chair, and bed rails. Take some wipes with you and wipe down elevator buttons or door handles. The less you touch, the better.
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