CPR breathing barriers are used to reduce the risk of infection when giving rescue breaths by eliminating the need for mouth-to-mouth contact, protecting you from bodily fluids such as saliva and blood.
The most basic and portable type of breathing barrier is a face shield—a flat piece of thin plastic that is placed over a person’s face, with an opening or valve that allows you to breathe into the person’s mouth.
A pocket mask is a transparent, flexible device that creates a tight seal over the person’s nose and mouth. The opening contains a filter or a valve that protects you from coming into contact with the person’s bodily fluids and exhaled air.
Breathing barriers sized specifically for children and babies are available. If possible, select equipment that is appropriately sized for the injured or ill person.
Environmental precautions refer to the systems that are implemented in an area to reduce exposure to germs. Examples include making sure there is proper ventilation in the workplace, that people don’t use the same sink for hygiene and food preparation, and that any contaminated materials are immediately disposed of in dedicated biohazard garbage.
Designate a container for sharps (potentially infected sharp objects such as used needles and lancets). It should be puncture-resistant, leak-proof, and labeled with warning signs such as the biohazard symbol. To avoid infection, put all needles and similar sharp objects into this container immediately after they are used. It should not be used for other purposes.
Many environmental precautions are the responsibility of the employer, but you can make suggestions if you notice something that could be improved.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Surfaces and Equipment
Reusable equipment and surfaces that have been contaminated by blood or other potentially infectious materials need to be properly cleaned and disinfected before the equipment is put back into service or the area is reopened. Clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment as soon as possible after the incident occurs. Remember to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
If blood or other potentially infectious materials have spilled onto the floor or another surface, take steps to prevent unnecessary people from accessing the area. If the spill contains sharp objects (e.g., shards of broken glass), do not pick them up with your hands. Instead, use tongs, a disposable scoop, and scraper, or two pieces of cardboard to remove and dispose of them. Carefully wipe up the spill using absorbent towels, and/ or use a solidifier (a fluid-absorbing powder).
After cleaning up the spill, flood the area with a freshly mixed disinfectant solution of approximately 1 part bleach to 9 parts water (a 10% solution). Always ensure that there is good ventilation, and wear gloves and eye protection when using bleach. Let the solution stand on the surface for at least 10 minutes, then use clean absorbent materials (such as paper towels) to wipe up the liquid and dry the area. Dispose of all materials used to clean up the spill in a labeled biohazard container. If a biohazard container is not available, place the soiled materials in a sealable plastic bag or a plastic container with a lid, seal the container, and dispose of it properly.
Soft materials such as clothes and linens that have been contaminated should be washed with soap and the hottest water available, at least 70°C (158°F). Hard-surfaced materials, such as dustpans, should be cleaned with a disinfectant solution. There is no need to dispose of soft materials or instruments as long as they are washed properly.
Handling an Exposure Incident
An exposure incident occurs when one person’s bodily fluids risk infecting another person through contact with the eyes, mucous membranes (e.g., in the mouth or nose), or an opening in the skin (e.g., a cut). Being pricked by a used syringe is also an example of an exposure incident.
In the event of an exposure incident, follow these steps immediately
- Decontaminate the exposed area, if possible
- If your skin was exposed, wash the contaminated area with soap and water.
- For infectious splashes into your mouth or nose, flush the area with water.
- For infectious splashes into your eyes, irrigate the eyes with water, saline, or a sterile irrigant for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Report the exposure incident to EMS personnel or your healthcare provider.
If the exposure incident occurred in a workplace setting, notify your supervisor and follow your company’s exposure control plan for reporting the incident and receiving post-exposure follow-up care. Some workplaces have additional requirements dictated by regulations and legislation: ensure that you are aware of any local, provincial/territorial, or organizational laws and regulations that apply to you.