The hospital is the place we go to get better, right? But sometimes during hospital treatment a patient develops a dangerous or even deadly hospital-borne infection. In fact, hospitals are perfect breeding grounds for germs and viruses. In one recent year, 721,800 hospital infections were reported in the U.S. Unfortunately, these infections can be the direct result of medical malpractice.
The good news is that a few simple steps can help you reduce the risk of getting a hospital acquired infection.
- Pay attention to the use of catheters and IVs. Ask your doctor how long he or she expects you to need one, because the less time you need the device, the less likely you are to get an infection.
- Speak up about cleanliness. Insist that nurses and doctors wash their hands before touching you, and ask about what procedures are in place to keep equipment sterile. You do not want to develop an infection originating from another patient.
- Don’t shave. This may seem like a strange tip, but shaving can leave small nicks on your skin—and these can lead to infections in your bloodstream. If your doctor needs to remove hair around a surgical site, ask that they clip it rather than using a razor.
- Take extra care before and after a surgical procedure. Ask nurses to scrub the surgical site carefully, because surgical instruments can carry bacteria from your skin into the incision. While those bacteria may be harmless on the skin’s surface, they can be much more harmful if they enter the body.
- Ask about antibiotics. Make sure you get the appropriate tests to determine which antibiotic you need. This is especially important for the elderly, small children and anyone who has a suppressed immune system.
- Don’t smoke. This is always good advice, in or out of the hospital. Smoking reduces the lungs’ ability to get oxygen into the blood, and decreased oxygen lessens blood cells’ ability to heal wounds. This can leave you more susceptible to an attack by germs and viruses.
- Stay warm. Hospitals are often kept quite cool, to preserve samples and sterile conditions. Ironically, this can pose a risk to patients. When your body is cold, your blood does not circulate as well—and, as with the smokers above, it will not be able to heal wounds as effectively. Wear warm clothing or ask a nurse to turn up the temperature in your room.
- Research your hospital. Pennsylvania, like many other states, requires hospitals to make public their infection data. If you have a choice of hospital, look for one with comparatively low infection rates.
- Watch out for signs of infection. The best thing you can do if you’re infected is catch it early, so notify your doctor if you experience fever, dizziness, redness, warmth, swelling / pus, or increased pain.
If you or someone you love has suffered an infection due to hospital negligence or malpractice in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, contact Philadelphia’s top hospital malpractice firm: The Colleran Firm. With over a century of combined experience, The Colleran Firm is ready to help you by offering a free consultation.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthcare Associated Infections
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: What You Can Do to Be a Safe Patient
- Scientific American: 10 Ways to Stave Off Hospital Superbugs and Other Nasty Germs