How to Prevent an Infection While in Hospital

Despite the best efforts of healthcare providers, patients can get infections while seeking health care. There are some things patients can do to help reduce the chance of getting an infection.

Before you are admitted:

  • Ask your doctor about any vaccines you may need to prevent respiratory illness including influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia.
  • Follow any recommendations from your healthcare providers regarding weight loss, diabetes management or smoking cessation before hospitalization. This can help to prevent the complication of an infection following surgery.

Once you have been admitted:

  • Hand hygiene is the number one way to prevent the spread of germs. All staff should clean hands before caring for you. If you have not seen a staff member clean their hands, feel free to ask if they have done so.
  • Cover your cough with fresh tissue. Try to keep your hands away from your face because germs can enter through the nose, eyes and mouth.
  • Let your nurse know if your gown or linens are soiled or if you require tissues or any other hygienic supplies.
  • Try to keep the area around your bed clutter-free. This helps the housekeeping staff to keep the area clean.
  • Some patients are placed on “special precautions” while in hospital. This may include wearing combinations of gloves, gowns and masks by staff, visitors and patients. If you have questions while in hospital regarding these special precautions ask your nurse or a member of the Infection Prevention and Control Department who will be happy to explain this to you.
  • If any of your dressings are loose, or appear to have increased drainage, tell your nurse who will assess for any signs of infection.
  • Intravenous (IV) and drains can be an entry point for infections, if your dressing is loose or the area appears red or has increased tenderness, tell your nurse who will assess for any signs of infection.
  • Follow your healthcare providers’ instructions regarding any breathing exercises and directions for getting out of bed. This movement can help prevent a lung infection (pneumonia) after surgery.

Once you go home:

  • Be alert to any symptoms that might indicate you have an infection: increased or unexpected pain, chills or fever, increased drainage, pus, or swelling of a surgical wound.
  • Complete the full course of any antibiotic prescriptions as instructed by your doctor.
  • Follow all discharge instructions provided by your healthcare providers.
  • Make sure you attend any follow-up appointments with the members of the healthcare team caring for you.

You can contact the Capital Health Infection Prevention and Control Department for more information.