The Caregiver

 

Handling Infectious Waste

 

 

What is Infectious Waste?
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In the process of caring for your loved one at home, wastes are generated as a result of patient diagnosis and treatments.  Infectious waste refers to that portion of waste that could transmit an infectious disease.  This waste includes body substances (such as urine, stool, vomitus) and objects contaminated with these substances.  In principle, the waste is considered infectious when it is suspected to contain or has the potential to contain disease-causing microorganisms in sufficient numbers to cause disease.  However, as a rule of thumb, you are advised to handle body substances, including blood and all body fluids, or any materials that have come in contact with them as if they are infectious, regardless of the patient's diagnosis. 

 

 


Guide to Handling of Infectious Waste

 

Treat urine, stool, vomitus, blood, and body fluids as potentially infectious and handled cautiously, regardless of your patient's diagnosis.

 

Spills of blood and body fluid should be cleaned up and surfaces disinfected immediately.

 

Wear personal protective equipment (gloves, mask, gown/apron) if a large spill or contamination is expected.

 

Always wear gloves to handle contaminated dressings or supplies.

 

Wash hand immediately if they become contaminated with blood or body fluids.

 

Take care to avoid splashing any contaminated material onto the mucous membranes of your eyes, nose or mouth, or into any broken skin you may have.  For instance, when pouring contaminated wastes into the toilet, do it slowly to minimise splashing.

 

If you have open skin lesion such as a cut on your hand, you should avoid contact with blood and other body fluids.

 

Handle needles and sharp objects with extra caution.  For more details, please refer to Handling Needles and Sharp Objects.

 

All contaminated items such as dressing, catheter, gauze, suction tubing and disposable diapers should be discarded into a plastic bag properly secured.

 

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Use of Gloves as Protective Equipment

 

Always wear gloves when handling blood soiled items, body fluids, excretions, and secretions, as well as surfaces, materials, and objects exposed to them.

 

Disposable non-sterile gloves are required when performing any general clinical procedure that may expose you to the patient's blood or other body substances.

 

Sterile disposable gloves are to be worn for procedures that need sterile technique such as cleaning certain wound.

 

Gloves should be worn to protect skin lesions such as cuts and scratches in the skin on your hands when rendering care to patient.

 

If a glove is torn it should be removed and a new glove used.

 

After coming in contact with any infected material, you should change gloves if care is not completed.

 

Once used, gloves must be discarded before leaving the patient's room.

 

Wash your hands immediately after removing gloves.

 

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Use of Gown or Apron as Protective Equipment

 

Gown or apron should be worn to prevent soiling of clothing during procedures that may involve contact with body fluids, blood, secretions, or excretions.

 

Sterile gowns is required for procedures that need a sterile field.

 

Gown or apron must be large enough to cover your clothing which is likely to be contaminated.

 

Gown or apron should be made of moisture-resistant material that provides an effective barrier to body substances.

 

Gown or apron should be changed after giving care to an individual patient and after performing any procedure which involves contact with blood or body substances.

 

When removing a soiled gown, minimise contamination of your hands and clothes.  The gown should be held inside without touching the outside (the outer surface of the gown is referred to as 'outside' and it is the part that is exposed to contamination).  Sleeves should not be allowed to turn inside out.

 

Used gown or apron must be disposed off into proper receptacle.

 

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Use of Mask as Protective Equipment

 

A mask protects you from breathing in microorganisms from the patient's respiratory tract and vice versa.

 

Disposable masks are to be worn whenever there is a reasonable expectation that droplet transmission may occur.

 

A properly applied mask fits snugly over your mouth and nose so that infectious organisms and body fluids cannot enter or escape through the sides.

 

If you wear glasses, the top edge of the mask should fit below the glasses so that they will not cloud over as you exhales.

 

Talking should be kept to a minimum while wearing a mask to reduce respiratory air flow.

 

Before removing a mask, remove your gloves (if worn) or wash your hands if they have come in contact with infectious material.

 

A mask that has become moist is ineffective and should be discarded.

 

Dispose off mask after each use.  It should never be reused.

 

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Handling Needles and Sharp Objects 

 

To prevent needle injury, you should never recap used needle into its original sheaths, detached from disposable syringes by hand, or purposefully bent, broken, or otherwise manipulated by hand.

 

Ask for assistance if you are performing procedure such as giving injection or starting an intravenous lines that requires the use of needles and sharp instruments on patient who is uncooperative.

 

Immediately discard used needles and other sharp objects directly into a puncture-resistant container used solely for such disposal.  The container should be located as close as practical to the user.  Never allow the contents to protrude out of the opening.  Discard the container when it is two thirds full.

 

If you use an empty container to dispose sharp objects, it must be of heavy-duty material.  Be sure to reinforce the cover by taping it firmly before discarding the container.

 

If you are stick by needle, encourage bleeding, wash puncture wound with soap and water and/or 70% alcohol.

 

 

Cleaning Up Blood Spills and Body Fluids 

 

Clean up spills of blood or body fluids immediately.

 

Wear protective equipment such as gloves, mask, and gown, as indicated by the type of spill, to prevent the spread of infection.

 

Mark the spill area so that others do not inadvertently enter the area until clean up is complete.

 

Absorb as much of the visible material as possible with paper towels or disposable rags/cloths and carefully discard them into a leak-proof plastic bag.

 

Use a detergent or a disinfectant solution such as sodium hypochlorite to clean the spill area.  You can be liberal with disinfectant but do not apply so heavily that it begins to run.  Allow the solution to sit for a minimum of 10 minutes before rinsing the area with clean water.

 

Equipment used to clean up body fluids, such as a mop, should be cleaned with detergent and rinsed with water.  Rinsed them with fresh disinfecting solution and wrung as dry as possible. Air-dried the equipment.

 

After cleaning the area, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, even though you wore gloves.

 

If blood or body fluids has spilled directly onto you, it should be thoroughly washed off as soon as possible.  If the spills soaked through your clothing and there is skin contact, the *clothes must be removed.  Wash the areas that are contaminated and take a complete shower if necessary.

 

In cases when blood or body fluids has come into contact with mucous membranes such as your eyes, nose, and lips, they need to be thoroughly rinsed. If there is contact with open wounds in your skin, immediately and thoroughly wash the areas with water and an antiseptic cleaner.

 

 

* Contaminated clothes must be laundered with soap and water to eliminate potentially infectious agents.  Clothing soaked with body fluids should be washed separately from other items.  Pre-soaking is recommended for heavily soiled clothing.  Follow the directions provided by the manufacturer of the laundry detergent.