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Infection prevention is critical in home health care

Avoiding infection during home health care is important for both those giving and receiving care. Both hospice at home and palliative home health care teams help families under the basics of infection prevention. We hope this information will help keep everyone safe.

Infection Prevention Week, October 14-20,  is a time to remember how some simple precautions can prevent more serious health problems.

Hand Washing

Hand washing is the single most important way to prevent infection. It should be done before and after any contact, such as feeding, turning, changing, bathing, etc. It should also be done after contact with personal items such as bedding, utensils, bedpan, catheter, etc. The most effective way to hand wash:

  • Wet hands with warm to hot water
  • Lather with soap, rubbing hands vigorously
  • Rinse thoroughly, holding hands down
  • Dry hands on a clean towel or paper towel

home health careHow to Use Gloves

Disposable gloves protect everyone. You should wear gloves when touching:

  • Blood
  • Body fluids (urine, stool, vomit)
  • Mucous membranes (such as the inside of the mouth)
  • Wound drainage
  • Soiled dressings
  • Soiled linens or clothing

Disposable gloves can be purchased at pharmacies and most discount stores. They are to be used one time only, then discarded. If a glove tears while putting it on, throw it away and use a new one.

Keep Hands Free of Contamination when Removing Gloves

  • Remove the first glove by holding it just below wrist. Be sure to only touch the glove—not the skin on the wrist or arm.
  • Pull the glove down over your hand, which turns it inside out.
  • Continue to hold the discarded glove in your gloved hand. Slide two fingers from your ungloved hand under the wrist of the glove still on your hand. Do not to touch the outside of the glove.
  • Pull the glove down over your hand, which turns it inside out. Hold onto the glove by grasping the clean inside surface of the glove. The first discarded glove will now be inside the glove you just pulled off.
  • Throw the gloves away in an appropriate container.
  • Wash your hands.

Handling Soiled Clothing and Bedding

  • Use disposable gloves and avoid shaking linens in the air, which can spread germs.
  • Place soiled clothing or bedding in a separate container or trash bag until ready to wash.
  • Wash as promptly as possible after soiling. Machine wash with detergent, hot water and one cup of bleach if material is colorfast.
  • Drying items in a warm dryer and ironing also decrease germs.
  • If a washing machine is not available, soak items for 15 to 20 minutes in cold water containing bleach (use one cup of bleach for every ten cups of water) to lift stains. Work out any stains, wearing gloves. Re-wash in hot soapy water and rinse well.
  • If a dryer is not available, air-drying in the sun is preferred.

Disposal of Soiled Dressings and Disposable Pads

Put dressings and pads with blood, or any body substances on them, in a leak proof plastic bag. Then close securely. Seal this bag in a second plastic bag and place in the trash.

Cleaning Large Spills

  • Large spills of body fluids, or spills containing broken glass or sharp objects, should be covered with disposable towels saturated with 1:10 bleach solution.
  • Wear gloves, and let towels stand for 10 minutes.
  • With gloved hands wipe up spills with disposable paper towels, put in plastic bag, and discard in household trash.
  • Dispose of gloves and wash hands.

General Housekeeping and Hygiene

  • Pour dirty mop or cleaning water down the toilet, not the sink.
  • Disinfect soiled sponges or mops by soaking in 1:10 bleach solution for five minutes. (Do not disinfect items in the kitchen sink or food preparation areas.)
  • Keep counters, floors and bathroom surfaces wiped down with a disinfectant.
  • If using a humidifier, clean it regularly.
  • Do not share personal items such as toothbrushes, razors and enema equipment.
  • Clean thermometers with soap and water between uses. If other people use the thermometer, soak it in rubbing alcohol for 30 minutes, then rinse with water between users.
  • Pet areas, including litter boxes, birdcages and fish tanks, should be kept very clean. Persons with AIDS or weakened immune systems should have someone else take care of pet areas.
  • Discourage people who have infectious diseases, such as colds or the flu, from visiting.

Disposal of Needles

  • Dispose of needles in unbreakable, puncture-proof containers that have closable lids, such as empty coffee cans, or plastic bleach or soap bottles.
  • Do not replace caps on needles.
  • Do not overfill the container.
  • To dispose of the filled container, add the 1:10 bleach solution described below, tape lid securely and put in the trash.

Bleach Solution for Needle Disposal and Spills

Use one cup of bleach for each ten cups of water.

This is called a 1:10 bleach to water dilution.

Food Preparation

  • Wash hands before touching food.
  • Tasting of food during cooking should be done with a clean spoon each time.
  • Check expiration dates on foods.
  • Unpasteurized milk and raw or cracked eggs have been associated with Salmonella infections and should be avoided, especially by persons with AIDS. Organically grown food (which may have been fertilized with animal waste) should be washed thoroughly.
  • The inside of the refrigerator should be cleaned regularly with warm soap and water to control molds. Never clean kitchen surfaces with sponges used in a bathroom.

kansas-city-hospice-home-health-care-nurseReport to Your Home Care Nurse if:

  • Someone has any known contagious disease.
  • There are reddened areas or broken down skin.
  • Fever is above 101 degrees.
  • There are any questions.

People you know. Care you trust.Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care is KC’s original hospice and leader in palliative home health care. We’ve served the greater Kansas City area since 1980. Local leadership keeps our focus on caring for our community with expertise and compassion.


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