Infection Control

Caregivers must be constantly alert to the need for cleanliness. It is vitally important to prevent infections, both for you and the person you care for.

People usually refer to infectious agents as “germs”. These include bacteria, virus, and fungus. Examples of communicable diseases, which can be spread from one person to another, are colds, flu, respiratory infections (such as flu and pneumonia), gastrointestinal infections (which lead to vomiting and/ or diarrhea), and AIDS.

Various Factors Put A Person At Higher Risk For Infection:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Chronic disease
  • Stress and fatigue
  • Dehydration (not drinking enough fluids), and
  • Poor personal hygiene—not washing hands, not keeping skin healthy.

Infection control means preventing the spread of disease from one person to another. There are some simple steps you can take to prevent spreading any disease you may have to an ill person, or to protect yourself from disease. Some of these are commonsense, for instance covering your nose when you sneeze or your mouth when you cough.

Other Actions You Can Take

Handwashing is the single most effective way to control infections and disease. You should wash your hands:

  • Before and after caring for the person’s body, and after using the bathroom
  • After you remove gloves or other protective clothing
  • Before preparing food and after handling raw meat, poultry, or fish
  • After eating or smoking
  • Immediately after hand contact with blood or other body fluids or feces
  • Frequently throughout the day

Wear Gloves

Wear disposable gloves if there is contact with body fluid. Wear household gloves for general cleaning activities.

Wear gloves when you might have direct contact with:

  • Blood
  • Infectious materials such as body fluids
  • Mucous membranes
  • Non-intact skin
  • Surfaces soiled with blood or other infectious materials

Always wear gloves if you have open cuts, sores, or dermatitis on your hands.

Use disposable gloves made of intact latex or intact vinyl. Don’t use gloves if they are peeling, cracked, or discolored, or if they have holes or tears in them. If someone is eligible for Medicaid, Medicaid will pay for disposable gloves; ask your physician for a prescription. Be sure the pharmacy you use will accept Medicaid payment for supplies.

Originally written and published by the Aging and Adult Services Administration Department of Social and Health Services, State of Washington. Reprinted with permission.

Washington State Department of Social and Health Services

Caregivers Handbook

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