Hospital-acquired infections are one of the worst nightmares of any patient. When you visit a hospital or clinic, you want to receive treatment for a problem you’re concerned about. However, since some healthcare institutions can be quite risky, and nosocomial infections are a real cause for concern, knowing how to protect yourself against them is crucial. Depending on their severity, there are different types of infection, and while some can be relatively mild, others can come with downright life-threatening symptoms.
Mitigating the risks depends on a few simple rules you can follow during your hospital stay that can guarantee your safety. Naturally, in the case of patients with a compromised immune system, extra care is required to ensure a positive outcome. If healthcare professionals notice any signs of health deterioration in a patient, immediate intervention ensures the illness can be treated adequately, reducing the associated morbidity.
Here are some of the best strategies to use in the hospital that can ensure you keep infections under control and avoid contracting them.
Maintain proper hygiene
Everyone knows that the best way to prevent any infection is to maintain adequate hygiene standards. Many people are concerned about this fundamental step, but the truth is that twenty seconds of washing your hands with soap and water are enough to eliminate all possible pathogens. Make sure you scrub your hands extra carefully and get into the folds of the skin as well as under your fingernails. To be extra cautious, you can use a disposable towel to dry your hands instead of a cloth one.
You can use hand sanitisers as an extra safety measure, but they shouldn’t be used as a replacement for traditional hand washing. Some germs, such as Clostridium difficile and norovirus, both associated with nosocomial infections, are resistant to hand rubs, and you can only eliminate them by washing thoroughly. A combination of alcohol and chlorhexidine is the best option as it is more effective against both gram-positive and negative bacteria, viruses and fungi.
According to recommendations issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand disinfectants should only be used when soap and water are not readily available. You should rub your hands together until your fingers and palms are completely dry, and you must be mindful to avoid any flames or burning objects during application.
If infections are caught early, treatment can usually be commenced immediately, and the patient can be confident that the outcomes will be positive. However, in some cases, hospital-acquired infections can be more challenging to diagnose, which means that your state can worsen until a physician is able to identify the problem. In cases such as this, a hospital-acquired infection enters the medical malpractice area. As a result, you should be able to start a misdiagnosis compensation claim that guarantees you adequate compensation.
The amount you can expect to receive depends on how severe your case is. If you were left with considerable, chronic health damage due to an infection you caught during your hospital stay, the sum will naturally be larger. Additional factors, such as loss of earnings if you took a long time off work to recover, are also crucial for your claim. You’ll also need to provide irrefutable evidence that the health damage resulted from medical negligence, meaning that you’ll likely have to be examined by a different physician who’ll complete a thorough report of your condition.
Identify the symptoms
If you contract a healthcare-associated infection, your body will usually provide you with clear signs that something is wrong. Taking note of these symptoms as early as possible ensures you can talk to a physician about them and start treatment immediately. Although specific symptoms largely depend on the body part or system affected, there are some systemic signs that you should also be aware of.
Typically, they include elevated body temperature, abdominal or flank pain, and chills. Nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, headache, and, in serious cases, altered mental status are also common among patients. If the infection occurs at the site of a surgical wound, you can also expect discharge, redness, tenderness, inflammation or a rash at the surgical site.
Careful about roommates
The other patients you share your hospital room with can also increase your risk of contracting nosocomial infections. For example, if you share the room with an individual suspected to have a viral respiratory disease, such as influenza, you should be able to request a mask that can offer protection against droplets carrying the viral load and which could get you sick. In the case of infections such as chicken pox, the disease can sometimes be transmitted through objects contaminated with the virus.
Make sure you take the necessary precautions to avoid direct contact if there’s any cause for concern. Keeping your distance confirms that you don’t acquire any germs on your skin or your clothing, which could end up near your face, causing illness.
While everyone could contract a nosocomial infection, certain risk factors leave you predisposed to acquiring it more easily and having more severe symptoms. The condition might also be more challenging to alleviate, and you might require more potent medication or a prolonged course of treatment.
Some of the most common risk factors to consider include the following:
- Age: Patients older than 70, as well as those that are very young, are more susceptible to serious nosocomial infections.
- The length of time for which you have been treated with antibiotics which can attack your body’s natural microbiome and healthy gut flora, causing an imbalance in your immune system.
- Whether or not you’ve spent a significant amount of time in ICU.
- The state of your immune system.
- If you’ve experienced shock or been in a coma before.
All of these aspects can worsen the outcome of acquiring a nosocomial infection. Extra care should be employed in these situations, while treatment must be started promptly.
Hospital-acquired illnesses can be quite troublesome, but if diagnosed promptly, they can generally be treated without any additional discomfort for the patient.