Infection Protection

Standard Precautions

For practical purposes in daily living, standard precautions means assuming that every person’s blood and body fluids are infectious for HIV, HBV, and other blood borne pathogens.

The safest way to go about living these days is to assume everyone is infected with something. People of all colors, rich and poor, fat and thin, old and young are chronically infected with HCV, HBV, HIV, and other diseases. Forty to 90 percent of these folks don't know they're infected.

If you know your daughter has HBV, you probably spend some of your time thinking of how to keep her from infecting others. It's good that you're aware, but don't forget all those people out there who don't know or aren't telling about their disease who could accidentally infect your daughter with HCV, HIV, or some other disease.

It is impossible to identify those living with an infectious disease. The only way to try and keep yourself and your kids reasonably safe is to learn a practical approach to standard precautions. At first, you'll be paranoid of everyone and everything, but as the precautions become habits, they'll be a natural part of your life—like turning the lock on a door, or stepping on the brake at a red light. They will become normal, daily precautions.

The primary thing to remember with standard precautions is to always have a barrier between your skin and mucous membrane (around the eyeballs, gums, and inside the nose), and the (potentially) infectious substance. Go to a medical supply store and buy some latex gloves. Keep them in your house and car. If you don't happen to have gloves and you need to deal with someone's body fluid, put sandwich baggies or trash can liners over your hands. Use a sanitary napkin or thick, rolled-up towel to collect the fluid or staunch the flow of blood.

If you wear glasses, keep them on. If you don't wear glasses, put on your sunglasses to protect your eyes. If you have one, tie a scarf around your face like the masked bandits used to do.

Use a one-part bleach to ten-part water solution, or another disinfectant for cleaning up substances. Including your own! As soon as you have dealt with the situation, throw away the disposable protective items (your gloves, etc.) and wash your hands thoroughly.

As soon as possible, cover your hands again and remove any non-disposable items you're wearing and wash them appropriately. Common sense will guide you in this. Just don't go through all of the precautions only to bare hand your dress which is covered in someone else's body fluid.

Make sure you keep all your cuts and abrasions covered with a waterproof bandage. Be careful with badly chapped skin. It can crack and allow fluids to enter and exit. These precautions are a two-way street. You may be one of the millions unaware that you're living with an infectious disease.

Only you know if your child is old enough to understand these precautions. Practicing them with your kids would be useful for the whole family. If your kids are too young to understand what we've outlined, there are a few things you can try to help the younger members of the family participate in standard precautions.

It would help if you set aside a non-work day to role play this with your kids. Call it: Family Safety Day. This would also be a good day to practice evacuating the house in case of fire and all those other safety rules we seldom rehearse.

First, remember to keep your kids' cuts covered with a bandage which won't let anything in or out. To help the kids understand how invisible germs can pass from one person to the next, put glitter on your child's hands and let him/her go to the bathroom, play with family members, and pick up a cracker (without actually eating it). Go back to the beginning of the journey and walk him/her around the house, following the trail of glitter. This will help demonstrate how we can pass germs (and other things) to each other without knowing it. To press home the point, you might put glitter on your hands, too.

Have one member of the family be "bleeding" ketchup. You be a young child and run for an adult when you see the blood. Have your young child go through the same scenario several times. Then pretend there's no adult around and show your child how to use a coat or towel as a barrier between them and the blood.

It's important that they learn not to reach out and touch another person's blood or body fluid. One way to help them understand (and this is kind of gross) is to ask them if they would touch someone else's poop or nose gunk. Most kids, no matter how young, will say no. Once you get that all important "no", explain that blood is really personal and they don't want to touch anyone else's blood.

This approach is necessary only for a few years. Once they get to be five or six, you can start explaining more.

A few general rules for everyone to remember would be: don't share razors, toothbrushes, manicure tools, nail clippers, hypodermic needles, cocaine straws, body piercing equipment, tattooing equipment—anything that can puncture and/or is a personal grooming item.

Standard precautions as practiced by healthcare professionals cover a wide range of topics, including sharps disposal, ventilation devices (mouth pieces for resuscitation), specimen handling, and other opportunities for the spread of infection which you are unlikely to come across in daily living.

We wanted to give you some practical, basic precautions to help you live a normal, safe life. Let us know if you have any ideas for teaching little ones precautions.

You might want to check your daycare or preschool/kindergarten on their standard precautions awareness. Most of them will say they've had AIDS training. If they are receptive to suggestions, feel free to share some of these ideas with them.

We know of a preschool which keeps a chart for cleaning the bathrooms, gloves are always worn when necessary, and they really work hard to do everything right. But, several of the preschoolers never get to use soap on their hands because the sink is too wide for them to reach across to the soap dispenser, and the side access is blocked from a large storage cabinet which is pushed against the sink.

Download the 2-page Standard Precautions handout (PDF, 38 KB)

 

Important disclaimer: The information on pkids.org is for educational purposes only and should not be considered to be medical advice. It is not meant to replace the advice of the physician who cares for your child. All medical advice and information should be considered to be incomplete without a physical exam, which is not possible without a visit to your doctor.


Top 4 ways to prevent the spread of disease:

  1. Wash your hands often.
  2. Get immunized.
  3. Practice standard precautions.
  4. Disinfect regularly.