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Work with Your CF Team 

Infection Control in the Hospital or Clinic 

 
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If You Don't Have Soap and Water...

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that washing hands with soap and water is always the best way to reduce germs.

But, if that's not possible, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), which can quickly lessen — but likely get rid of — the number of germs on hands.

Note, also, that hand sanitizers don't work well when hands are visibly dirty.

How to use hand sanitizer: 

  Apply the product to the palm of one hand.
•    Rub hands together and rub product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until hands are dry.
For more information on hand washing, go to the CDC's website at www.cdc.gov/handwashing.

While we are not always sure how or where a person becomes infected with a germ, we do know that germs present in the respiratory sputum of those with CF can be passed on to each other. We know this by doing a fancy test that is called molecular typing.

Bacteria have their own “fingerprints” and this testing can actually look at the DNA found in bacteria from two different patients to see if they are from the same source.

This testing has been done in the past when there have been outbreaks of certain strains of bacteria in camps, social gatherings and hospital and clinic settings.

Because of this testing, we know that the hospital and clinic environment can be a place for bacteria to spread. Health care workers and equipment can be a way for germs to get from one patient to the next.

Tips for Staying Protected in the Hospital or Clinic  
  • Keep your hands clean. Make sure you have alcohol-based antibacterial hand gel readily available when in public places, especially in common areas such as the clinic waiting room or the sign-in and checkout desk. 

  • Avoid indirect or direct contact with others with CF. This includes spending limited time in common areas — the waiting room, check-in and check-out areas and the clinic bathroom. 

  • Use disposable tissues to keep secretions to yourself when coughing or blowing you nose. Keep tissue handy in your purse, pocket or backpack, then clean your hands. 

  • Go to your CF center at least once every 3 months for regular follow-ups and to have regular sputum cultures done. 

  • Understand and follow your CF center’s infection control practices.

Some practices at CF care centers for infection control include: 

  • Hand cleaning prior to contact with all patients. 
  • Gloving for all patients. 
  • Gowning with all or some patients. 
  • Cleaning the clinic or hospital room after patients go home. 
  • Creative scheduling to reduce wait time in clinic. 
  • Scheduling patients with certain germs in separate clinics. 
  • Eliminating or limiting face-to-face socializing between CF patients while in clinic or the hospital and at camps and education days. 
  • Having all patients use respiratory masks when in clinic or on hospital grounds.

How do I know what infection control practices my CF center follows? 

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has infection control recommendations that list ways to minimize the spread of germs. Even with these guidelines, there may be some practices that are slightly different from center to center.

One example would be having all people with CF use a mask when on hospital grounds. This has been widely debated and some centers may enforce this rule, while other may not.

If you have questions or concerns about the infection control practices at your center, you may want to discuss your concerns with your doctor, nurse or care team member. Remember, it’s okay to ask questions!

Many CF centers also have a parent/patient advisory council that may be able to help with your concerns. You may even want to consider getting involved with the work they are doing.

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Updated 07/20/12

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is an accredited charity of the Better Business Bureau.