Preventing Infections in the Hospital

What You Can Do

Infections can occur after many types of medical procedures. This is particularly true if you are having surgery. There are several things you can do to help protect yourself from infections in the hospital.

When you are planning ahead for surgery:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’ll be better able to facilitate your recovery if you fully understand your treatment plan and the outcomes you can expect.
  • If you have diabetes, be sure that you and your physician discuss the best way to control your blood sugar before, during and after your hospital stay. High blood sugar increases the risk of infection.
  • If you are overweight, losing weight will reduce the risk of infection following surgery.
  • If you are a smoker, you should consider a smoking cessation program. This will reduce the chance of developing a lung infection while in the hospital and may also improve your ability to heal following surgery.

When you are in the hospital following surgery:

  • Wash your hands carefully after handling any type of soiled material, especially after you’ve gone to the bathroom.
  • Do not be afraid to remind your care providers about washing their hands before working with you. You are the most important part of your health care team and you have an important role in ensuring your own safety.
  • If you have an intravenous catheter, keep the skin around the dressing clean and dry. Tell your nurse right away if the dressing works loose or gets wet.
  • If you have a dressing on a wound, let your nurse know promptly if it works loose or gets wet.
  • If you have any type of catheter or drainage tube, let your nurse know right away if it becomes loose or dislodged.
  • Carefully follow your doctor’s instructions regarding breathing treatments and getting out of bed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, advice or sufficient pain medications.
  • If possible, ask your friends and relatives not to visit if they are feeling ill.

For more information on how you can help ensure your safety when receiving medical care, visit the National Patient Safety Foundation Web site at

Source: National Patient Safety Foundation