Skip to content

Information and Resources

MRSA and Other Hospital-Acquired Infections: Reducing Your Risks

Font Size
A
A
A

Hospitals are hotbeds of viruses and bacteria, and infection is a common complication after surgery. 

Here are tips for reducing your risk of contracting a hospital-acquired infection, such as MRSA  (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus):

Recommended Related to Ear Infection

Understanding Swimmer's Ear -- Prevention

These tips may help you avoid getting swimmer's ear: Be careful when cleaning your ears. Most doctors advise against using cotton swabs unless you're using it to clean the outside of the ear. Instead, wipe the outer ear with a clean washcloth. Do not dig into the ear canal, and never use a pointed object. Scratching the skin of the ear canal can let germs get in under the skin and cause infection. Avoid earplugs, if possible. These can irritate the ear canal. After swimming, tilt and shake...

Read the Understanding Swimmer's Ear -- Prevention article > >

  • Before surgery, ask if you will need antibiotics. Usually, antibiotics are given shortly before surgery (and stopped within 24 hours) to reduce the risk of wound infections. But don't just assume you're getting antibiotics: ask if you are. If you aren't, ask why. 
  • Before surgery, ask how hair will be removed at the surgical site. If hair needs to be removed, it should be done with electric hair clippers rather than a razor. A razor can result in tiny cuts that can become infected. And the CDC recommends that if hair is removed it should be done immediately before surgery. Shaving should not be the night before an operation, because that is associated with higher rates of surgical skin infections.
  • Ask everyone -- including doctors and nurses -- to wash their hands. This is a key way to prevent the spread of hospital-acquired infections. Don't let anyone touch you who has not washed his or her hands in your presence. "It's your health," says Peter B. Angood, MD, co-director, International Center for Patient Safety, "so you need to make sure that health care providers are washing their hands and protecting you." Although you might feel awkward about asking a doctor or nurse to wash, you need to speak up. Besides, most hospitals now have policies that staff should be washing their hands in front of the patient.
  • Tell family members to stay away if they're sick. It can be hard to keep some dedicated well-wishers away. But remind loved ones that if they are sick, even with a mild cold, they must stay away until you've fully recovered.
  • Know the signs of infection. Before you're discharged, make sure you understand what to watch for. How will you know if your incision is getting infected? What will it look like? How will it feel? If you don't know these things, you might assume that dangerous signs of a hospital-acquired infection are just normal postoperative pain.
    "There are so many stories of people just toughing it out when they should have gotten help," says Carolyn Clancy, MD, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in Rockville, Md.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on February 18, 2014

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

feet
Solutions for 19 types.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
pregnancy test and calendar
Helping you get pregnant.
man rubbing painful knee
A visual guide.
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
woman standing behind curtains
How it affects you.
brain scan with soda
Tips to avoid complications.
row of colored highlighter pens
Tips for living better.
human lungs
Symptoms, causes, treatments.
woman dreaming
What Do Your Dreams Say About You?
two male hands
Test your knowledge.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.