Minimizing the Risk of Infection When Providing First Aid
One of the concerns people have when dealing with victims of an accident is the risk of cross-infection. First aiders – including appointed first aid personnel in the workplace – are at increased risk for cross infection while rendering first aid treatment. They may contract infectious diseases if:
- body substances or blood come in contact with open wounds, broken skin, eyes, mouth or nose;
- needle stick injury and other skin penetrating injuries;
- and use of contaminated first aid supplies, materials or equipment.
Take note that infectious diseases are often transmitted through blood and body substances. Some of the more common infectious diseases include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or AIDS. First aid and CPR courses offered by reputed organizations such as St Mark James highlight the importance of personal safety and prevention of cross infection while providing first aid.
Standard precautions are essential in preventing cross infection caused by human blood, body fluids and other materials that can carry infectious agents. First aiders must be aware and must take precautions before handling
bodily fluids and other infectious materials, such as:
- avoid contact with contaminated objects
- wash your hands using soap and water before and after providing first aid
- use personal protect equipment (PPE) such as waterproof dressings to cover open wounds and cuts
- avoid drinking, eating and other hand-to-mouth contact while providing first aid
- dispose or separate soiled clothing in household bleach for at least 30 minutes before washing as normal
- avoid re-contaminating yourself when handling contaminated or soiled clothing
- use a new pair of gloves when administering first aid to other casualties to prevent cross-infection
- if contaminated by blood or body fluids, seek medical assistance immediately
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
One of the most effective ways of preventing cross infection is using barriers or personal protective equipment. Some of the PPEs you can use include goggles, gloves, aprons, masks, enclosed footwear, and protective gowns.
Hand washing is the simplest most important measure in controlling and preventing cross infection. As much as possible, hands should be washed with clean water and soap, before and after any contact with the victim.
It is recommended that first aiders and other healthcare professionals use neutral pH soap for routine hand washing. On the other hand, avoid using soap with very harsh ingredients such as scrub brushes as they can lead to skin abrasions, causing potential opening or breaks in the skin. Use disposable paper towel to dry the hands and dispose of it properly after use.
In the absence of water or soap, you can use other hand sanitizing agents specifically intended for this purpose.
Some of the activities that increase your risk of cross contamination include physical examination of the victim, handling soiled or contaminated equipment or instruments, and direct contact with excretions and body secretions.
To learn more about barrier devices and other methods of preventing infection when providing first aid enrol in a St Mark James program near you (register here).