by Home health care workers handbook

Universal precautions are measures you can take to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, from the common diseases such as colds, flu, mumps, chicken pox, tuberculosis, and food poisoning, to more life threatening diseases like AIDS and hepatitis. These precautions protect both you and your personal assistant from any potential infection.

Infectious Disease
Many illnesses and diseases can threaten your health and the health of your personal assistant. Germs, viruses, parasites, and bacteria can spread disease or illness. Some common disease such as colds, flu, mumps, chicken pox, tuberculosis, and food poisoning are passed through the things we touch or eat or breathe. Persons with certain disabilities and medical conditions are more likely to catch a disease or illness. Thus, it may be much more serious for them. In general, doctors advise that it is always safest to act as if both you and your patient are potentially infectious for AIDS and other diseases. By taking this approach, you protect yourself from these life-threatening diseases and the more common diseases mentioned above. Your actions can protect yourself and others.

Some diseases, such as AIDS and hepatitis, are passed through body fluids for example, blood, or feces that enter the body or come into contact with vulnerable parts of the body (the mucous membranes like mouth, lips). These life threatening diseases can be spread through a blood transfusion from an infected person, reusing or sharing any drug needle, or body fluids or waste coming into contact with or entering a body opening a cut, or an open sore. The home, especially the kitchen and bathroom, should be kept as clean as possible. Garbage should dispose or regularly; plumbing should be kept in good repair. Cleanliness and safe food handling habits will help to protect you and your patient from the spread of most infectious diseases.

Housekeeping and Infection
Frequent dusting and vacuuming help stop the build-up of dirt and bacteria. Keep the kitchen and bathroom as clean as possible. Use bleach or disinfectant soaps for cleaning in these areas.

In the Kitchen
• Cover and refrigerate foods that can spoil; don’t use spoiled food.
• Clean the tops of cans before opening them.
• Wash fruits and vegetables before serving.
• Use hot water and soap to clean cutting boards and other surfaces that have come in contact with raw meat.
• Frequently wipe cooking and eating surfaces.
• Mop the floor regularly.
• Dispose of garbage daily.

In the Bathroom
• Flush toilet after every use.
• Hang towels out to dry and replace with clean ones regularly.
• Clean the toilet and mop the floor frequently.
• Dispose daily of sanitary napkins, bandages or other things that may contain bodily fluids.
• Be sure the plumbing is kept in good repair; standing water can lead to the growth of bacteria.

Guidelines for Universal Precautions
• Wear latex gloves during catheter care, handling dirty laundry, cleaning a bathroom, showering and toileting.
• Wash your hands carefully with soap and water before putting on the gloves and immediately after taking off the gloves. Immediately wash carefully any time you get blood or other body fluids on yourself.
• Wash your hands before and after you go to the bathroom, prepare food, perform personal care and housecleaning tasks, and after physical contact with others. Use a nailbrush to scrub your hands. Paper towels are safest for drying; do not use damp towels to dry your hands.
• Protect yourself and others by not preparing or handling food when you are ill or have open sores.
• Use a mild bleach solution to clean up blood or other body fluids. Clean up spills immediately. Also use the bleach solution to soak or disinfect possibly contaminate surfaces, linens, clothing, or other objects. Be careful using bleach since it can remove color.
• Avoid handling sharp objects that might have come in contact with blood or body fluids. Carefully place them in a puncture-resistant container for disposal.
• Wash most soiled laundry in a washer set on hot and dry them in a dryer set on high. If they will be damaged at the highest heat, wash them according to manufacturer’s instructions.
• Do not eat, drink, apply cosmetics, or handle contact lenses in areas where exposure to blood or other body fluids is possible.
• Wash dishes and utensils in hot, soapy water, Rinse in very hot water and let them air dry.