Hospitals reducing infections from IV use, but more needs to be done
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15 steps consumers can take to prevent infection when they’re in the hospital

Hospital Hand WashingMy last article was on improvements that have been made in reducing infections from IV tubes in hospitals.

About 650,000 people develop infections after they’re admitted to hospitals each year, and 75,000 patients die, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That makes hospital acquired infections the eighth leading cause of death, just behind diabetes.

Many hospitals have cut the risk of some of those infections – but too many haven’t, said Consumer Reports.

Hospitals are breeding grounds for infections and consumers need to be alert when they enter a hospital, said Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumer Reports’ Safe Patient Project.

Here are steps from Consumer Reports that you can take for preventing infections in the hospitals:

  1. Check up on your hospital to see how it compares with others.
  1. Have a friend or family member with you to act as your advocate, ask questions, and keep notes.
  1. Keep a record on a pad so you can note what doctors and nurses say, which drugs you get, and questions you have.
  1. Insist on clean hands by asking everyone who enters your room whether they’ve washed their hands with soap and water.
  1. Keep things clean by bringing bleach wipes for bed rails, doorknobs, the phone, and the TV remote.
  1. Cover wounds.
  1. Inquire daily whether IVs and catheters are needed because the longer they’re left in place, the greater the infection risk.
  1. Ask about the timing for taking antibiotics before surgeries because the proper timing is 60 minutes before the operation.
  1. Postpone surgery if you have an infection as it increases your risk of developing a new infection and worsening an existing one.
  1. Say no to razors for removing hair from the surgical site as a regular razor can cause nicks that provide an opening for bacteria. An electric trimmer should be used instead.
  1. Question the need for heartburn drugs because these drugs, called proton-pump inhibitors, increase the risk of intestinal infections and pneumonia.
  1. Request a test for MRSA so that you can address the problem and hospital staff can take extra steps to protect you and others if you have it.
  1. Watch for diarrhea and get tested for C. diff if you have three loose stools within 24 hours.
  1. Quit smoking, even temporarily, as stopping for as long as possible beforehand cuts the risk of infection.
  1. Ask about taking precautions prior to surgery before entering the hospital, such as bathing with special soap or using antiseptic wipes.

See the article “15 Tips for Preventing Infections in the Hospital” for details.

Copyright 2016, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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