What can you do to avoid a hospital-acquired infection?

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are in the news a lot today -- so much so that it seems like there's a lot of safer places you can choose to go than a hospital.

If you need surgery, have an accident or are suffering a serious illness, however, a hospital's the only choice. At that point, you need to do everything you can to make your stay a safe one. Given that one out of every 25 patients may have an HAI, and HAIs too often lead to wrongful deaths, that's no easy task.

What can a patient do to stay safe from infection? Plenty!

Follow this guide:

Watch your treatment providers carefully

Modern hospitals are equipped with facilities that allow a doctor, nurse or aide to wash his or her hands before every patient. Watch your treatment providers carefully and speak up if you see someone approach you without washing his or her hands.

Make inquiries about your treatment

Every invasive item attached to your body is a potential source for infection. If you have a picc line, a catheter or an IV, make sure that it isn't in for any longer than necessary.

Inspect your wounds for signs of infection

If you have any new redness, soreness, swelling, yellow pus or leaking fluid from the site of a wound (including one from surgery), let your care providers know right away. That could be the start of an infection -- which will be far easier to treat early on than it will be later.

Ask about another room

If you're in a shared room with a patient who has the symptoms of an infection, like a fever and diarrhea, ask if you can be moved to another room. There's no reason not to accommodate your request if they have an open bed elsewhere on the floor.

Ask for a vaccine

Hospitals are notorious for spreading the flu and pneumonia. Ask if you can get the flu and pneumonia vaccine if you haven't already. Also ask for a tetanus shot if yours needs updated.

While it may not be possible to prevent every infection, HAIs are increasingly being viewed as a failure in the medical care system and a symptom of gross negligence. Anyone who is seriously injured by one should consider exploring their legal options for compensation.

Source: CDC.gov, "Patient Safety: What You Can Do to Be a Safe Patient," accessed Feb. 07, 2018

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