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What to Know about the Risk of Infection

We are all concerned about "catching a disease" if we come in contact with someone's body fluid. 

 That is perfectly understandable.


Body fluids include blood, sweat, tears, saliva, mucus, vomit, urine, feces,

spinal fluid, vaginal fluid and semen.

But there are steps you can take to minimize the possibility.


We often talk about "germs".

There are 3 basic types of "germs" - fungus, virus and bacteria.

We typically will be dealing with viruses and bacteria.


Another name for these "germs" is pathogens, which are harmful microorganisms that can cause a disease.

In order for you to "catch something", there are generally 4 things that are required. 

 If one is missing, chances are you will not be infected.


1. The "germ" has to be present.

For example, you are afraid of catching the flu.

If someone does not have the flu, you cannot catch it.


2. The "germ" has to be present in sufficient quantity to get you infected.

Let us say the victim has a few flu virus cells, but if it takes hundreds or

thousands of cells to infect you, you probably will not catch it.


3. The "germ" has to have a way into your body.

There are two types of pathogens - blood borne or airborne.

"Germs" get into the body through the mucus membranes of the eye, the nose

and the mouth.

"Germs" can enter through the skin either by absorption or through a break

in the skin. This is called Direct Contact with someone's body fluid.

"Germs" can enter through the skin by touching something where body fluid

has been deposited. This is called Indirect Contact.

For example, If you have someone's body fluid on your hand, and you touch

an object, some of the body fluid stays on the object. 

 Later, someone else comes along and touches the object with the body fluid.

This is why it is important to not touch anything if you are the one dealing

with the victim.

"Germs" can also get into the system through Injection. We typically think

of contaminated needles, but also be aware of insects such as mosquitoes

who can carry diseases.


4. The last thing is you need to be susceptible to "catching things".

If you get sick easily or often, you should be much more careful than someone who rarely gets sick.

Personal Protective Equipment


So how can we protect ourselves from "catching something"?

Use protective devises such as gloves and a breathing barrier.

Depending on the amount of body fluid, eye protection is also recommended.


Gloves will protect your hand's skin surface from pathogens.

When dealing with multiple victims, always change gloves before moving on.

You do not want to transfer the pathogens from one person to another.

also keep in mind that if you need to touch something other than your victim, 

remove the gloves so you do not contaminate the object. 

 When you are ready to go back to the victim, put on another pair of gloves.


Make sure you get gloves that fit your hands.

If they are too small, the gloves will rip.

If they are too big, they may fall off or you may not be able to hold things properly. 

 You can purchase boxes of gloves at your local pharmacy. 

To avoid contamination, put one pair of gloves in a zip top baggy.

Put a few pairs in your first aid kit and label the size they are on the bag. 

This keeps the gloves clean.


When wearing gloves and dealing with body fluids, keep your hands down.

This keeps fluids from running down your arms.


After the incident is over, go wash your hands.


Breathing barriers come in a couple of different forms -

Both have their good and not so good points, such as size.

Many rescuers have a key chain pocket mask on them at all times, 

but have a pocket mask in their first aid kits.


Use a breathing barrier on one victim only.

If there are multiple victims, each one gets his own mask.


The Face Shield

A flat plastic barrier that lays across the victim's mouth and nose. It conforms

to the face and allows the rescuer to blow through a hole in the middle.

The hole has either a one-way valve or a filter to protect the rescuer, depending on the brand.

These flat barriers are popular with lay rescuers (and off-duty professionals) because they are very portable.

Most of the time, they can fold up tight and fit on a keychain.


Face Shields come in "one size fits all".

Face shields are used once and disposed of properly.


The Pocket Mask

Professionals use a mask shaped like a pear that fits over the mouth and nose. 

With proper technique, it seals onto the face. 

The rescuer blows through a one-way valve at the top to provide rescue breaths.


Pocket Masks come in adult and infant sizes.

Pocket Masks can be used multiple times.

The one-way valve needs to be replaced, then the mask needs to be properly cleaned in a 10% bleach solution.

Hand Washing


When you have finished helping a victim, and have removed your gloves,

it is important to Wash Your Hands.

Make sure to wash your entire hand - the front and back, in between your fingers, 

your wrists and under your nails.


The key to hand washing is Time and Friction.

The friction is what helps remove the germs.

The longer you wash, the better off you are. We recommend 30 seconds.


Get your hands wet, apply soap and rub like crazy - the way surgeons do.

Regular soap is just fine.


If you use anti-bacterial soap on a regular basis, Stop It.

The human body is covered with bacteria. These bacteria are very helpful.


Bacteria are everywhere, including your entire body.

The bacteria in our body weighs as much as our brain - 3 pounds!

Many species of bacteria are needed to keep us healthy. 

The bacteria on our skin, in our airways, and in our digestive system 

are the first line of defense against foreign “invaders” (pathogens) 

that can cause infection and other problems.


Each person has a personalized collection of bacteria, called the microbiome.

We acquire our first bacteria while being born, and every day our environment exposes us to more. 

Some of these bacteria will take up residence inside the body and help develop a robust immune system.


Bacteria help protect the cells in your intestines from invading pathogens 

and also promote repair of damaged tissue. 

Most importantly, by having good bacteria in and on your body, bad bacteria do not get a chance 

to grow and cause disease.


Antibacterial soap kills all bacteria - the major amounts of good and the few bad. 

This leaves you susceptible for the bas bacteria and all the viruses to enter. 

Most of the diseases we fear catching are viruses: the flu, the common cold, Hepatitis and HIV. 

Antibacterial soap does not kill viruses!


The friction used in washing your hand correctly with regular soap is much more effective 

at getting rid of the bad bacterial and all the viruses.


Alcohol based Hand Sanitizers are not much better.

They can reduce the number of germs on the hands, in some situations, 

but mainly because of the friction you use.

They do not eliminate all types of germs or harmful chemicals with which you may have come in contact.

Hand sanitizers are not as effective when your hands are visibly dirt or greasy.

They also dry out your hands, so you use a lot more hand lotion.

Lotions are "thicker and sticky" to germs and can hold on to them more so

than hands cleaned with "just soap and water - time and friction".


If you must, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. 

 Then make sure you wash your hands as soon as possible.