Infection Control

During administering first aid to a sick or injured person you should try to minimise the risks to yourself, the patient, and any helpers or bystanders.

Various diseases can be transmitted via blood and body fluids including HIV and Hepatitis B & C. Risk of infection can be reduced by following infection control precautions.

Cross infection is not always abouot what you can get from them but also what they can get from you. An example would be imagine a mechanic who has oil and grease over their hands and then treat a casualty with a bleed with no gloves on, all that oil and grease can cause infection into the wound. 

Infectious agents can be spread in a variety of ways, including:

Airborne:

coughs or sneezes release airborne pathogens, which are then inhaled by others.

Contaminated objects or food:

the pathogens in a person's faeces may be spread to food or other objects, if their hands are dirty.

 

Skin-to-skin contact

the transfer of some pathogens can occur through touch, or by sharing personal items, clothing or objects.

 

Contact with body fluids

pathogens in saliva, urine, faeces or blood can be passed to another person's body via cuts or abrasions, or through the mucus membranes of the mouth and eyes.

Minimise contact with blood

Some infections can be passed on in blood or in body fluids (such as saliva) that can become mixed with blood. These are known as blood-borne viruses (BBVs).

The risk of an infection being passed on in this way largely depends on the type of infection and how you come into contact with the infected blood.

The most common blood-borne viruses in the UK are:

  • Hepatitis B

  • Hepatitis C

  • HIV

 

These viruses can also be found in body fluids other than blood, such as semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk. Other body fluids such as urine, saliva and sweat only carry a very small risk of infection, unless they contain blood.

However, the presence of blood is not always obvious, and it is possible for someone to have one of these infections without realising it.

The risk of serious infection from someone else's blood or saliva is low, but you should take the following steps immediately:

  • wash the blood or saliva off your skin with soap and lots of running water

  • if your skin is broken, encourage the wound to bleed and rinse it thoroughly under running water – but don't scrub or suck the wound

  • wash the blood or saliva out of your eyes, nose or mouth with lots of cold water – if you wear contact lenses, rinse before and after taking them out, and spit the water out after washing your mouth

Coughing and sneezing

Infection is caused by pathogens ('bugs') such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa or fungi getting into or onto the body. It can take some time before the microbes multiply enough to trigger symptoms of illness, which means an infected person may unwittingly be spreading the disease during this incubation period.

 

Coughing and sneezing pathogens can travel up to 4 metres and can stay viable for 45 minutes after being coughed into the air. 

If you need to sneeze or cough then simply do it into the corner of your elbow to prevent spread of infection.

Gloves 

Gloves create a barrier between germs and your hands. They help keep your hands clean and lessen your chance of getting germs that can make you sick. Wear gloves every time you will be touching blood, bodily fluids, bodily tissues, mucous membranes, or broken skin. 

Gloves should be fit for purpose, non latex (some people are allergic) and ensure they fit your hands, most workplace first aid kits have medium gloves in which are no use if you have large or small hands so ensure they fit you. 

Gloves are to be changed between casualties as treating one casualty with gloves is good but if you then use the same gloves to treat another casualty you may be placing them at risk of infection from the other person. 

Cover open cuts, sores, boils

Ensure you cover any open cuts, wounds or boils you may have that may come into contact with your casualty. If these burst or seep into your casualties would it could cause cross contamination and risk of infection for your casualty. 

Face shields