Blood and Body Fluid Precautions
What are blood and body fluid precautions?
Blood and body fluid precautions are used to prevent transmission of diseases such as HIV or hepatitis. These precautions are used by health care workers and people who provide first aid when they may be in contact with blood or body fluids. Precautions may include protective barriers, such as gloves, gowns, masks, or eye protection.
These precautions also apply to other body fluids, including breast milk, semen, rectal and vaginal fluids, and fluid that surrounds a fetus or organs inside the body.
Why are these precautions important?
Although skin provides some protection from exposure to potentially infectious substances, it is strongly recommended that health professionals use blood and body fluid precautions for further protection when they are providing health care. These precautions also help protect you from exposure to a potential infection from your health professional in the unlikely event that you come in contact with the health professional's blood.
The American Red Cross recommends that everyone use blood and body fluid precautions when giving first aid.
Are blood and body fluid precautions always needed?
The best practice is to always use blood and body fluid precautions, even when you can't see any blood and there's no chance that blood is present.
How can you reduce your 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 fluids.
If you give first aid, use blood and body fluid precautions. You may wish to have gloves available in your home, office, or vehicle if you think you may be required to help another person in an emergency.
Taking the following precautions can help you minimize your risk of exposure to contaminated blood and body fluids.
- Use gloves to 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 if you are pricked with a needle.
- 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.
- Always wear a mask and protective eyewear if you are doing a procedure that may expose you to splashes or sprays of blood or body fluids.
Masks and protective eyewear, such as goggles or a face shield, help protect your eyes, mouth, and nose from droplets of blood and other body fluids.
- Always wear a gown or apron if you are doing a procedure that may expose you to splashes or sprays of blood or body fluids.
Gowns or aprons protect you from splashes of blood or body fluids.
- Take these precautions if you give injections to a family member or to yourself:
- 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.
- Avoid touching objects that may be contaminated.
- Learn first aid and CPR, so when you are faced with an emergency or injury, you will know what to do.
What should you do if you're exposed to blood or body fluids?
Here are some steps to take if you are exposed to blood and body fluids.
- Wash your hands immediately after any exposure to blood or body fluids, even if you wear gloves.
- Flush with water if you get splashed in the eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Contact your doctor right away for further advice if you are pricked by a needle (needlestick).
Current as of: October 31, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine & W. David Colby IV MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease