Hospitals are dangerous places to be for several reasons. First, the only patients hospitalized are those who are very sick, those who need surgery that can't be performed in an outpatient facility, or those who have severe injuries. In all cases, these patients are at grave risk for acquiring infections, called "nosocomial" infections, because their immunity is compromised, or because they have open wounds. The only way to protect oneself or a loved one from being infected is to know how to prevent hospital infections.
According to the CDC, about 1.7 million Americans are infected in hospitals every year. Most are immunocompromised. Almost 100,000 of them die. Most of these infections are preventable. Your goal as a hospital patient will be to avoid being a hospital infection statistic.
While it is impossible to prevent every nosocomial infection, here are some steps you can take to attempt to keep yourself, or your loved one, from acquiring an infection while in the hospital:
- Know how hospital infections spread.
- Choose the cleanest hospital for your care or treatment.
- Choose a doctor with a lower infection rate.
- Prepare ahead of time for your hospital stay.
- Insist on hand washing.
- Prevent the spread of germs from unsafe surfaces.
- Insist catheters be removed or replaced as soon as possible.
- Plan for times you can't advocate for yourself.