Personal precautions are the actions that individuals can take to reduce the risk of disease transmission. Examples include washing your hands frequently, treating all blood and other bodily fluids as infectious materials, covering your mouth and nose when sneezing, eating well, and getting enough exercise and sleep.
One way to significantly reduce your risk of infection is to inspect your hands regularly and cover even small cuts with adhesive bandages. This reduces the number of points where germs can enter your body.
Proper handwashing is an important precaution for preventing the spread of germs that cause many infectious diseases. Frequent handwashing is important as part of a daily routine, for example, before eating or drinking and after using the washroom.
Wearing gloves helps to protect you from infection, but it does not eliminate the need for proper hygiene. First Aiders should always wash their hands thoroughly when they have finished giving care, even if they wore gloves the entire time.
Use the following guidelines when washing your hands
- Always use warm running water and a mild soap.
- Create a lather by rubbing your hands together with the soap—friction with the soap suds is what actually removes the germs from hands. Rub your hands together vigorously for at least 30 seconds.
- Wash all parts of each hand. Be sure to scrub your palms and wrists, between your fingers, under your fingernails, and around the backs your hands.
- Dry your hands with a clean paper towel.
- Turn the faucet off using the towel as a barrier between your hands and the faucet handle. Use the towel as a barrier for the door handle as well.
When to Wash Your Hands
Wash your hands after touching anything that is likely to carry germs (e.g., after wiping your nose, changing a diaper, or touching a pet), and before touching anything that could carry germs into the body (e.g., before handling food or touching an open cut). It is also a good habit to wash your hands frequently, for example when returning home from a public place.
In a first aid emergency, remember to wash your hands
- Before and after contact with an ill or injured person.
- After handling dirty articles, instruments, or dressings.
- Before or after treating wounds.
- After removing gloves.
Hand sanitizers are not a substitute for handwashing and are not suitable for cleaning visibly soiled hands. They should be used only as a temporary measure in situations where you are unable to wash your hands immediately. If you can see dirt on your hands, you should wash them with soap and water before using hand sanitizer. When using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to help decontaminate your hands, use the amount of product recommended by the manufacturer. Rub it thoroughly over all the surfaces of your hands, including your nails, and in between your fingers, until the product dries.
Most people in the world have been immunized against common diseases such as measles and tetanus. Some vaccine-preventable diseases are serious and can lead to disability or death. Immunizations protect not only you, but also your family, friends, and co-workers.
An immunization introduces a substance into the body that builds up its resistance to germs that cause a specific disease. Some vaccinations may wear away with time. As a result, it’s possible that your immunity to a particular disease could decline. It is important to keep up with your immunization needs since protection against diseases through immunization is a lifelong process.
Some vaccines require more than one injection and a certain period of time between injections. If you are planning a trip outside the country, find out well before you leave which immunizations are recommended and required in order to safely go to the countries you will be visiting. Because the risk of disease varies from place to place, this information cannot cover all the hazards that you might face. For specific guidelines on your particular situation, talk to your doctor or your community public health center.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the general term for items that protect you from contact with pathogens and contaminated objects. Examples include barrier devices such as safety glasses, goggles, face masks, CPR breathing barriers, and gloves. You should always use some type of barrier device between yourself and any material that could pose the risk of infection.
Any disposable equipment that you have used (e.g. gloves, breathing barriers) should be immediately disposed of in a labeled leak-proof container with a biohazard symbol.
Wearing gloves is an important way to protect yourself while giving first aid. Most gloves found in first aid kits are disposable and latex-free, as some people are allergic to latex.
Disposable gloves are meant to be worn once and then discarded; never wash or reuse disposable gloves. Gloves should fit properly. You should throw out any gloves that are discolored, torn, or punctured.
Wear gloves when
- You are providing care, especially if there is a possibility that you will come into contact with another person’s blood or other potentially infectious material.
- You must handle items or surfaces soiled with blood or other potentially infectious materials.
When you are wearing gloves, try to limit how much you touch other surfaces. Avoid touching anything while wearing soiled gloves as pathogens can easily transfer from that surface to another person. If possible, remove soiled gloves and replace them with a clean pair before touching other surfaces or equipment in your first aid kit.
Consider asking people to begin helping themselves while you retrieve and/or put on your gloves. For example, a bleeding person can use his or her own hand to apply pressure to the wound. This can also be effective in situations where gloves are not available.
When you are finished providing care, remove your gloves using the proper technique to reduce the risk of contaminating your skin. Dispose of the gloves properly and wash your hands. When multiple people are in need of care, remove your gloves, wash your hands, and put on a clean pair before assisting the next person.
Disposable Proper Technique for Removing Gloves
To remove soiled gloves without contaminating your skin
- With one hand, pinch the glove at the wrist of your second hand, being careful to touch only the glove’s outer surface.
- Pull the glove down and off your hand.
- Form the glove into a ball and hold it in the palm of your gloved hand.
- Insert your gloveless thumb under the glove of your other hand at the inner wrist.
- Pull the glove downward off the hand, turning it inside out and trapping the other balled glove inside.
- Discard gloves appropriately.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 30 seconds, using the proper handwashing technique.