How to Avoid Hospital Infections

Who's at Risk for Hospital Infections?

The CDC estimates that almost two million Americans get hospital infections each year, and 90,000 of those people die from them. Anyone who spends time in the hospital is at risk for infection, but the chances are greater for those who stay in an intensive care unit.

Defensive Measures Against Hospital Infections

You can take many precautions to steer clear of infections while in the hospital. In fact, the CDC estimates at least one-third of hospital-acquired illnesses can be avoided. Being aware of your rights as a patient and following a few practical tips will go a long way toward ensuring you don't leave the hospital sicker than when you got there:

Wash up. Do your duty by washing your hands or at least using a hand sanitizing gel that doesn't require water every time you use the restroom or handle anything that might be a germ carrier. Suspect items include soiled sheets, a bedpan, and used tissues.

Ask away. Don't be afraid to ask your physicians, nurses, and nurse's aides if they have washed their hands.

Watch that wound. Be sure to keep the dressing around a wound dry and clean. Let a nurse know immediately if it gets wet or begins to loosen.

Care for that catheter. Treat your catheter site as a wound dressing and keep it clean and dry. If the dressing comes loose or if the drainage tube becomes dislodged, tell your nurse.

Be part of the team. Be sure everyone involved in your care knows of any potential medical conditions, such as diabetes, that may affect your healing.

Know and follow the rules. Follow your physician's instructions and ask questions if you're unsure about anything he or she has instructed you to do or not do.

Be sure well-wishers are well. Tell family or friends who are sick to send you a get-well card instead of dropping by for a visit.

By following the preventative measures outlined in this article, you will decrease your chance of acquiring the many harmful infections in your midst. From simple hand washing to eating healthy, these tips are typically easy to do and often have multiple benefits.