The Importance of Standard Precautions/Universal Precautions

    Achieving Health Safety for Everyone

    Standard precautions, or universal precautions, require everyone, from daycare workers and teachers to accountants and auto mechanics, to assume that anyone's blood and body fluids may carry hepatitis viruses, HIV or other blood borne infections.

    Everyone working in or attending childcare centers, schools and businesses in the United States should be trained to use standard precautions. When standard precautions are used in all aspects of daily life, they help prevent the spread of infections. Additionally, because standard precautions assume anyone may carry an infection, a child with a chronic, viral infectious disease never has to be singled out, stigmatized or treated differently.

    Standard precautions are guidelines issued for the care of patients in hospitals but are common sense for everyone and should be used to prevent the spread of disease in all walks of life. Standard precautions or universal precautions require you to always have a barrier between any infectious substance and your skin, eyes, gums or the inside of your nose.

    Infectious substances include blood and all body fluids, secretions and excretions, except sweat, even if they do not contain any visible blood. Standard precautions should also be used if you come into contact with badly chapped or any non-intact skin or mucous membranes, even if blood is not visible.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that if you come into contact with feces, nasal secretions, saliva, tears, urine or vomit, you should wear gloves. You should always wash your hands thoroughly after these clean-ups.

    If you don't happen to have gloves and you need to handle someone's body fluid, put sandwich bags or trash bag liners over your hands. Use a thick rolled-up towel to collect the fluid or slow the flow of blood.

    If you wear glasses, keep them on if you have contact with blood. If you don't wear glasses, put on your sunglasses to protect your eyes.

    When you clean up body fluids, be careful not to get any of the fluid you are cleaning in your eyes, nose, mouth or any open sores you may have on your hands. Clean and disinfect any surfaces, such as countertops and floors, on which any body fluids have been spilled. Discard fluid contaminated material in a plastic bag that has been securely sealed. Employees should follow the policies and procedures at their worksites for disposing of potentially infectious material. Mops used to clean up body fluids should be cleaned, rinsed with a disinfecting solution, wrung as dry as possible and hung to dry completely. Be sure to wash your hands after cleaning up any spill.

    Make sure you keep all cuts and abrasions covered with a waterproof bandage. Be careful with badly chapped skin; it can crack and allow fluids to enter and exit. These precautions are a two-way street. You may be one of the millions unaware that you're living with an infectious disease and you certainly don't want to infect anyone.

    It's important to teach children never to reach out and touch another person's blood or body fluid. One way to help them understand is to ask them if they would touch someone else's poop or nose gunk. Most kids, no matter how young, will say an emphatic “no.” Once you get that all-important “no” response, explain that blood is very personal and they should never touch anyone else's blood.

    It's also good to reinforce a household ban on sharing toothbrushes, razors and personal grooming tools, such as nail files and nail clippers. If hypodermic needles are used in the home, it is essential that they be disposed of in a container that children cannot find or open.