What are blood and body fluid precautions?
Blood and body fluid precautions (universal precautions) are recommendations designed to prevent the transmission of HIV, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and other diseases while administering first aid or other health care. These precautions treat all blood and body fluids as potentially infectious for diseases that are transmitted in the blood (blood-borne pathogens).
Blood and body fluid precautions apply to blood and other body fluids that contain visible traces of blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. They also apply to tissues and other body fluids, such as from around the brain or spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid), around a joint space (synovial fluid), in the lungs (pleural fluid), in the lining of the abdomen and pelvis (peritoneal fluid), around the heart (pericardial fluid), and amniotic fluid that surrounds a fetus.
Why are blood and body fluid precautions important?
While intact skin provides some protection from exposure to potentially infectious material, when providing health care it is recommended that health professionals use blood and body fluid precautions for further protection. These precautions also help protect you from exposure to a potential infection from your health professional in the unlikely event that you may come in contact with the health professional's blood.
The American Red Cross recommends that everyone use blood and body fluid precautions while giving first aid.
What is not covered by blood and body fluid precautions?
Although it is recommended that you use blood and body fluid precautions whenever you come into contact with nasal secretions, breast milk, stool, sputum, sweat, tears, urine, or vomit, it is not absolutely necessary unless these fluids contain visible traces of blood. Blood and body fluid precautions apply to saliva only when it contains blood or in a dental or oral surgery setting where contamination with blood is likely.
How can I reduce my risk of exposure to blood and body fluids?
Blood and body fluid precautions involve the use of protective barriers such as gloves, gowns, masks, and eye protection. These reduce the risk of exposing the skin or mucous membranes to potentially infectious fluids. Health care workers should always use protective barriers to protect themselves from exposure to another person's blood or body fluid.
- Gloves protect you whenever you touch blood, body fluids, mucous membranes, or broken, burned, or scraped skin. The use of gloves also decreases the risk of disease transmission from needle sticks.
- Always wear gloves for handling items or surfaces soiled with blood or body fluids.
- Wear gloves if you have scraped, cut, or chapped skin on your hands.
- Change your gloves after each use.
- Wash your hands immediately after removing your gloves.
- Wash your hands and other skin surfaces immediately after they come in contact with blood or body fluids.
How else can I reduce my risk?
The American Red Cross recommends that everyone use blood and body fluid precautions while giving first aid. You may wish to have gloves available in your home, office, or automobile if you think you may be required to help another person in an emergency.
Other precautions can help you minimize your risk of exposure to contaminated blood and body fluids.
- If you give yourself or a family member injections:
- Use puncture resistant containers to dispose of needles, scalpels, and other sharp instruments.
- Do not recap needles.
- Do not bend or handle used needles or disposable syringes.
- Have a disposable face shield or pocket mask available if you think you might be required to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
- Wash your hands immediately after any exposure to blood or body fluids, even if you wear gloves.
- Avoid touching objects that may be contaminated.