When it comes to the healthcare profession, keeping those that you look after safe at all times will always be your highest priority. However, sometimes, regardless of how much care and attention is taken, bad things can happen.

One of the most common issues is the spread of healthcare-associated illnesses.

Deadly and costly, these can post a serious risk to patients, staff and those visiting healthcare facilities.

If you’re wondering what a healthcare-associated illness is, we’ve broken it down below, while outlining how you can work to prevent them from happening.

What are HAIs?

Healthcare-associated illnesses are infections often contracted by those receiving healthcare for other conditions. Covering a wide range of infections, HAIs are a significant cause of death for many.

Affecting a wide range of health care environments, HAIs can occur everywhere from hospitals and surgical centres to long-term care facilities and even in the home if this is where someone is being cared for.

Some of the most well-known HAIs are MRSA, Clostridium Difficile, the Norovirus and Seasonal Influenza (flu). Meanwhile, those most like to be affected by a healthcare associated illness include:

  • Elderly people
  • Frail people
  • Those with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes
  • Those with low immunity (this can include those being treated with chemotherapy, steroids and those with diseases that affect the immune system)
  • Very sick children
  • Premature babies

What can cause an HAI?

An HAI infection often occurs due to micro-organisms already present on a person’s body. While they wouldn’t normally be an issue when a person is weakened by medical or surgical treatment or their defence system is low, this is when they can result in a healthcare-associated illness.

They can also happen via micro-organisms present on another person through direct contact or contaminated equipment.

While these micro-organisms won’t always have an effect, elements such as age and the treatment being received and other illnesses can play into the likelihood of infection.

Factors that raise the risk of an HAI include:

  • Catheters (bloodstream, endotracheal, and urinary)
  • Surgery
  • Injections
  • Health care settings that aren’t properly cleaned and disinfected
  • Communicable diseases passing between patients and healthcare workers
  • Overuse or improper use of antibiotics

How you can prevent an HAI

While surgery, injections and equipment such as catheters can’t be prevented, certain measures can be taken to prevent the spread of healthcare associated illnesses.

While many hi-tech methods have been developed, the easiest way to help prevent the spread of these illnesses is through hand washing. Particularly effective when preventing the spread between carers and other people, soap and water or alcohol rub are the most effective way to tackle this.

Alongside items such as hand sanitiser, other products such as cleansing foam, dry wipes and bed bath wipes are also effective products to always have to hand. These not only help you to keep your own hands free of germs as you move between people but also helps those living in care homes to stay clean if they’re unable to clean themselves properly. You can find a selection of these products here.

Of course, with cross-contamination of micro-organisms being extremely easy and deadly, hand washing won’t do it alone. Therefore, the use of disposable products is highly recommended. From aprons to gloves, these use-once items can help to prevent the spread of micro-organisms between those most susceptible.

For those out there working in care, visiting someone being cared for, or if you’re currently being cared for, there are several things you can do to help with the prevention of HAIs. These include:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask nursing and medical staff if they’ve cleaned their hands before they touch you
  • If you have an IV cannula, let your nurse know if the site around the needle is red, swollen, painful or leaking
  • Tell your nurse if any dressings are not clean, dry and attached around your wound
  • Let others know if tubes or catheters feel displaced
  • Let others know if you have diarrhoea
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • Complete any course of antibiotics that you start
  • Ask relatives or friends who have colds or are unwell not to visit

If you need any help or advice when it comes to products used to prevent HAIs please get in touch. You can do this by calling 01204 895410 between 9 am and 5 pm Monday – Friday, or through our inquiry form here, and someone will get back to you within 24-hours.