An infection is the entry and multiplication of an infectious agent in the tissues of the body. An infection may be due to bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi and may be spread through cross-infection between a casualty and a first aider. To limit exposure to infectious agents first aiders must take precautions to avoid body fluids and other contaminants and he should follow the procedures of First Aid Training.
To minimize the risk of infection:
- Wash your hands with soap and water before and after assisting a casualty.
- Use protective barriers including disposable gloves, masks, CPR face shields and goggles.
- Change gloves before assisting another casualty.
- Ensure assistance is given in a clean and hygienic environment.
- Cover any open wounds you may have with a clean, waterproof, lint free dressing.
- Clean re-usable equipment hygienically after any use.
- Dispose of used gloves and other contaminated waste correctly. Place in a plastic bag, which is then placed inside another plastic bag and securely closed. Do not dispose of in a normal rubbish bin. Seek advice from your local Health Department on disposal options.
- Wash off any body fluids immediately with warm soapy water.
- Avoid coughing, breathing or speaking over wounds.
Signs of Infection
If a wound shows signs of an infection seek medical assistance.
- Skin is red and swollen around wound.
- Painful to touch.
- Skin surrounding the wound is hot to touch.
- Fluid discharge.
Avoid touching the infected area, ensure gloves are used and all equipment is cleaned after care is given.
Needle Stick Injuries
Some people, such as health care workers are at increased risk of needle stick injury, which occurs when the skin is accidentally punctured or scratched by a used needle or sharp object. Although the risk of transmission is low, blood-borne diseases that may be transmitted by such an injury include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV).
Reducing the risk of needle stick injuries:
- It is generally recommended that workers who may come in contact with blood or body fluids should receive hepatitis B vaccinations.
- Follow all safety procedures in the workplace.
- Latex or nitrile gloves will not protect you against needle stick injuries.
- Never bend or snap used needles.
- Never re-cap a needle.
- Always place used needles into a clearly labelled and puncture-proof sharps approved container.
Immediately after the Injury
- Wash the wound with soap and water.
- If the eyes are contaminated, rinse eyes while open with water or saline.
- If blood gets into the mouth, spit it out and then repeatedly rinse with water.
- If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand rubs or solutions.
- Ensure the safe disposal of the sharp.
- If you are at work, notify your supervisor or Occupational Health and Safety Officer – you will need to fill out an Accident Report Form.
- Go straight to your doctor, or to the nearest hospital emergency department.
At the Doctor’s Surgery or Emergency Department
Your general practitioner or emergency department doctor should:
- Take detailed information about the injury, including how long ago it happened, how deeply the skin was penetrated, whether or not the needle was visibly contaminated with blood, and any first aid measures used.
- Explain the transmission risks, which are small.
- Offer blood tests to check for pre-existing HIV, HBV and HCV. You should be offered counseling about these tests before the blood specimens are taken.
- Inform the original user of the needle about the needle stick injury – if they are known. They will be asked to consent to blood tests to check their HIV, HBV and HCV status. They should be provided with counseling before the tests are done.
- Advise you about reducing the risk of transmission until the test results are received. You should practice safe sex and avoid donating blood.
- Ask your doctor about additional counseling if you think that you will require it.
Always dispose of sharps in approved sharps disposal containers and in accordance with relevant workplace and local, state, territory and commonwealth legislation.