In any first situations, ensuring cleanliness is of extreme importance. A first aider must take precautions by understanding and practising principles of good first aid hygiene. This minimizes the risk of infection while providing first aid to victims of accidents.
Infectious diseases are medical conditions that result from the presence of unwanted micro-organism – viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites – in the body. Unlike other medical conditions, infections can be transmitted to others by contact or cross-contamination.
The most common methods of transmission are: direct contact (with an infected person); indirect contact (through infected items, coughing, room air and others); or through a carrier/host (worms, insects).
Although many life-threatening infections have now been successfully controlled, first aiders are still at risk of being infected with other predominant infections, especially viral infections. There are a number of infectious diseases that can be prevented through immunization, but still others, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIZ), have no cure or immunization yet.
Disclaimer: the material posted on this page on protecting your health with first aid hygiene is for learning purposes only. To learn proper first aid and CPR techniques with effective hygiene and barrier devices sign up for workplace approved first aid and CPR training.
Some examples of infectious diseases include:
- Viral infections (chickenpox, hepatitis, HIV, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, the common cold)
- Bacterial Infections (cholera, diphtheria, rheumatic fever, meningitis, staphylococcus infection, throat infections, tuberculosis strains, and whooping cough)
- Parasitic Infections (body lice, hookworm, itch mites, malaria, and tapeworm)
- Fungal Infections (‘Athlete’s foot’ or tinea, ringworm, and thrush)
General Precautions when Providing First Aid
In most cases, first aiders can do so little to help cure an infection. In fact, treating an infection is not a priority during first aid situations. Nevertheless, there is so much you can do to prevent cross-infection.
First aid hygiene is essential in preventing the danger contracting the infection. Usually, simple rules of personal hygiene and wearing personal protective equipment (such as gloves or face mask) are sufficient in guarding the first aider and the casualty from contamination.
Before providing treatment:
- Wash hands with soap and water or use antiseptic solution
- Make sure fingers and under nails are thoroughly washed
- Use personal protective equipment or barrier, especially when there is risk of contact with the casualty’s body fluid
- Always wear gloves
- Avoid touching contaminated objects once hands are washed or when wearing gloves
- When performing resuscitation, use a face mask or shield with filter, if available
- Use clean dressings or bandages over wounds
- Avoid breathing, coughing or speaking over the wound
- Avoid contact with body fluids
- If possible, wash hands before providing care to each casualty
- Ensure the casualty, immediate vicinity and yourself is clean
- Safely and properly dispose used first aid supplies and soiled clothing
- Wash hands with soap and water thoroughly, even if you used gloves
Soiled or used materials should be placed inside a plastic and then another plastic bag. Tie the plastic bag securely. If available, use biohazard bag. Dispose the plastic bag in designated bins for infectious materials. Usually, ambulances have waste collection for contaminated items.