It’s ironic. We check into the hospital as a last resort to get well, but it could end up killing us. Or at least making us dangerously ill.
A hospital acquired infection (HAIs) such as MRSA, C. diff, urinary tract infections and pneumonia affects one in 25 hospital patients. And those infections don’t just make people sick. Over 75,000 patients died with HAIs in 2014 alone.
Most folks mistakenly think they aren’t at risk if they don’t spend time in an intensive care unit. But that’s simply not true. More than half of hospital acquired infections occur in folks who never set foot in the ICU.
Slash your risk for a hospital acquired infection
If you will be checking into the hospital in the near future, taking a few precautions before and during your visit can help you stay safe. Which can leave you free to concentrate on healing and getting back home as quickly as possible.
Following are seven steps you can take to reduce your risk for a hospital acquired infection.
1. Get tested for MRSA:
Many of us are already carrying around antibiotic-resistant MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) germs on our bodies. When we’re healthy, these ugly bugs can’t hurt us.
But all bets are off when we’re ill and our immune system isn’t performing up to par. In other words, the exact situation you’ll likely be in when you’re in the hospital.
When your immune system becomes compromised, MRSA bugs can slip in through your incision after surgery. Or they can sneak in through your IV line. And once inside they can cause a dangerous bloodstream infection, pneumonia or deadly sepsis.
Getting tested for MRSA before checking in to the hospital can give you the upper hand. Ask your doctor about the simple nose-swab test. If you turn out to be positive for MRSA talk with your doctor about the next steps, which may include taking a medication to tackle the bug.
2. Alert your doc if you get sick:
I get it. When you have a surgery or hospital stay scheduled you just want to get it over with as quickly as possible. So not telling your doctor about an illness to avoid a delay is a natural reaction. But hiding that infection could turn out to be a deadly mistake.
Even something simple such as a urinary tract or sinus infection takes its toll on your immune system. And a weakened immune system raises your risk of a hospital acquired infection. Plus that “simple infection” could jump to your blood stream leaving you dangerously ill.
Tell your doctor about even minor illnesses leading up to your hospital stay.
3. Break out the antiseptic soap:
Yes, you read that right. I normally caution you about the dangers of antibacterial products. And all those warnings still stand.
But preparing for a surgery is a unique situation. And bathing with an antiseptic soap that tackles not just bacteria, but fungi and viruses too is a smart move.
Research suggest this simple step could slash your risk for a hospital acquired infection.
To kill the germs living on your skin, the night before your surgery shower with the antiseptic soap (we suggest Hibiclens). The morning of your surgery shower again with the soap. Focus on cleaning the area were your surgery will take place, but don’t scrub.
Be sure to use a clean washcloth and towel, and dress in freshly laundered clothing.
4. Wipe it down:
Hospitals are filthy places. After all, they’re full of sick people. And while your room will be cleaned prior to your arrival, there’s a good chance it wasn’t done right. In fact, research suggests that up to 60 percent of hospital rooms don’t get a proper wipe down.
Bring bleach based cleaning wipes with you, or ask your nurse if they have some available. Bleach is effective against C. diff one of the most common and most dangerous hospital acquired infections.
Your goal is to hit the most touched hard surfaces. Have a loved one help if needed.
Surfaces to cover include…
- the over bed table
- the bedrails
- furniture, such as guest chairs
- around the sink
- and flat surfaces such as counter tops
Wipe in one direction to avoid spreading bugs around and only use the one side of the cloth before discarding it.
5. Keep up with tooth care:
Be sure to pack your toothbrush and toothpaste. It’s common to let tooth care slip when we’re in the hospital. But it’s also a bad idea.
Mouth bacteria can take advantage of your weakened immune system and set up shop in your lungs leading to pneumonia. But studies show that taking care of your teeth while you’re in the hospital can slash your risk for hospital acquired pneumonia by over a third.
So keep polishing those pearly whites. Ask a nurse of family member for help if you have trouble brushing them on your own.
6. Stay vigilant about antibiotics:
It used to be nearly standard practice to put patients on an antibiotic after an operation “just in case.” But this practice has contributed to the creation of superbugs that resist antibiotics. One of the worst being C. diff, a common and often deadly hospital acquired infection.
If there isn’t any evidence of an infection after surgery, experts now say you shouldn’t be on an antibiotic. If your doctor prescribes one for you don’t be shy about asking exactly what it is for, if it is medically necessary and how long he expects you to be on it.
In one recent study when doctors in hospitals reduced the number of prescriptions they were writing for broad-spectrum antibiotics, C. diff cases plummeted a staggering 80 percent.
7. Make handwashing a must:
The most effective deterrent against hospital acquired infections such as MRSA and C. diff is the simplest as well. Insist all health care staff, and family and friends, wash their hands with soap and warm water every time they come into your room.
And don’t forget to wash your own hands after visiting the bathroom and before every meal.
Researchers say hand washing significantly reduces the risk of transferring infections from one person to another. In one study when healthcare workers were educated about handwashing, shown how to do it properly and encouraged to continue to do it with workplace posters the results were remarkable.
The rate of hospital acquired infections dropped from 37.2 to 15.1. The bloodstream and respiratory tract infection rates plummeted too.
A stay in the hospital is always stressful. But these seven steps can help you stay safe while you heal and get you back home again as soon as possible.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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