Protect Yourself from Infection

Protect Yourself: Handwashing is the Key!

Infection can occur after many medical procedures, particularly if you are having surgery. But, there are things that you can do to help ward off a nasty bug:

  • Do not hesitate to remind doctors and nurses to wash their hands before working with you.
  • Wash your own hands carefully after handling any type of body fluids, especially after going to the bathroom.
  • If you have an intravenous catheter, make sure that your nurse keeps the skin around the dressing clean and dry, and replaces the dressing if it works loose or gets wet. If you have a drainage tube, let your nurse know if it becomes loose or dislodged. Since catheters, I.V.s, and drainage tubes are all entry points for germs, discuss with your doctor when they can be safely removed. Likewise, if you have a dressing on a wound, tell your nurse if it gets wet or becomes loose.
  • Losing weight, if you are overweight, will reduce the risk of infection after surgery.
  • If you have diabetes, be sure to discuss the best way to control your blood sugar, before, during, and after your stay in the hospital. High blood sugar significantly increases the risk of infection.
  • If you smoke, consider a smoking cessation program. This will reduce the chance of developing a lung infection while in the hospital and, after surgery, may improve your ability to heal.
  • Ask well-wishers to not visit you if they feel ill.
  • Enlist the help of friends and relatives to be active members of your health care team.
  • To check the rating of a local hospital or clinic, go to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization’s web site ( Then, under “General Public,” click on “Quality Check,” and type in the name of the facility about which you desire more information.

— National Patient Safety Foundation