UHC: Help prevent infections when receiving medical treatment

Published: April 4, 2018

Tips to help keep your health on track!

UHCEveryone knows when you’re sick you go to a medical facility for treatment in order to get better. What you need to be aware of, however, is that patients can also contract an infection while getting treatment for their medical issue. Unfortunately, germs are everywhere. Some germs are good and help keep us healthy. Others are bad – they cause infections and can lead to a serious illness or even death. It’s important to identify an infection early and to get immediate medical treatment. ¹

How do infections happen?

Most infections happen when germs find entry into your body, multiply and then create a bad reaction. Certain specific circumstances increase the odds that an infection could happen: ¹

  • Origin – Refers to where germs live (such as patients, visitors and medical personnel) and places where they can be found (such as counters, bed rails, faucets, toilets and medical devices).
  • At-risk person – Any person who hasn’t been vaccinated, is sick or has a compromised immune system is more susceptible to germs entering their body and causing an infection.
  • Transmission – Germs enter a body by way of contaminated contact with a person, place or thing – they don’t enter on their own.

What can I do to maintain patient safety?

Each day patients are contracting infections while they are at medical facilities being treated for something different. There are some very important things you can do to help prevent contracting a serious infection. Some of these are: ¹

  • Be vocal – Don’t be silent. If you have any questions or concerns regarding how your medical facility is protecting and safeguarding patient safety ask your doctor.
  • Proper hygiene – The single most important thing everyone can do is wash their hands. If you are sick, not only do you want to keep your hands clean, others who may come in contact with you need to be washing their hands. If you are going to have surgery, speak to your doctor about surgical site infections. Ask about their prevention procedures and what you can do prior to surgery to lessen your risk of infection.
  • Ask questions – For example, make sure you know what type of medication you will be given. There can be various repercussions if the incorrect antibiotic or medication is used and/or prescribed. Be your own health advocate to ensure you know why a test, procedure or medication is being provided.
  • Educate yourself – Learn about the symptoms and signs of infections, especially the more serious ones, such as sepsis or MRSA, which can result in death.
    • Sepsis: This can develop once an infection already exists in your body and the infection isn’t stopped. The symptoms are: confusion, hard time breathing, rapid heart rate, fever, feeling cold and/or shivering, in pain and sweaty skin.
    • MRSA: This is a type of staph bacteria that does not respond well to several antibiotics. The symptoms are: irritated skin area that appears as a lump or bump and is red, swollen, hurts, is warm to the touch, pus filled and draining, and fever.
  • Watch for signs – Contact your doctor if symptoms worsen, such as having diarrhea three times in a 24 hour time frame. This is especially important if you are on an antibiotic and you are having these symptoms.
  • Stay protected – Keep as safe as possible with yearly flu vaccinations which may help lessen and prevent serious health issues.

What action should I take if I think I have an infection?

It is always important to be an advocate of your own health. If you think you have an infection or have symptoms that suddenly appear, even if you are on an antibiotic, call your doctor. Infections can get serious quickly – don’t delay seeking medical treatment. The earlier an infection can be treated, the less likely it will become life-threatening. ¹


¹ www.cdc.gov

This is informational only, not a replacement for the medical advice of your physician.