What are Universal Precautions?
Most of the time it’s not possible to tell if a person is infected with HIV, hepatitis, or any number of other diseases
Universal precautions are steps we should take to protect ourselves when we come into contact with the blood or body fluids of other people. Standard precautions are intended to stop the spread of germs to others.
Most of the time it’s not possible to tell if a person is infected with HIV, hepatitis, or any number of other diseases. The best thing to do is to treat the blood and body fluids of every person as POTENTIALLY infectious. These potentially infectious body fluids include blood, semen, and vaginal secretions.
The basics of Universal Precautions
- Blood and body fluids – ALWAYS treat as potentially infectious. Clean up spills promptly using absorbent material first; then clean more thoroughly with a disinfectant like household bleach.
- Gloves – wear latex, vinyl or rubber disposable gloves when handling blood, body fluids, or when cleaning cuts, scrapes or wounds. Wash hands after removing gloves, and dispose of the gloves in a plastic bag. Add gloves to your first aid kit so they are always ready. They are not expensive and can be bought at any chemist.
- Needlestick Injuries – go to the nearest Health Unit or hospital emergency department immediately for treatment assessment.
- Sharp Objects – place needles and syringes in a safe container. Never re-cap, bend or break off used needles. Place them in a sealed puncture-proof metal or plastic container with a lid, such as an empty coffee tin and bring to the appropriate authorities such as G.P., local needle exchange or A and E.
- Personal Articles – never share toothbrushes or razors. They can transmit small amounts of blood from one user to the next. Dispose of razors carefully. Wrap sanitary napkins before disposing of. Handle bloody bedding or clothing cautiously, and wash it in hot soapy water.
Handwashing is the best single way to prevent the spread of germs from one person to another. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 15 to 20 seconds.
Always Wash Hands:
- before preparing food
- before mealtimes
- before breastfeeding, and
- after toileting or changing nappies
- before and after providing first aid
- after handling blood or body fluids
How can you safely clean up spills of blood or other body fluids?
Protect yourself by wearing disposable vinyl or latex or rubber gloves. If there is a risk of splashing use protective eyewear.
Use a disposable absorbent material such as paper towels to remove most of the spill. Place these in a plastic bag and deposit in the rubbish bin.
Wipe the floor or any contaminated surfaces with a disinfectant solution. This can be easily made by mixing one part household bleach to ten parts of water. This type of bleach solution should be freshly made up or it may lose its strength. For carpets or upholstery that may be damaged by bleach, other household germicides or disinfectant agents can be used. Soak mops or brushes that have been used for cleaning in a disinfectant for 20 minutes.
When you are finished wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.