Infection Control – Personal Protective Equipment

Infection Control – Personal Equipment

Infection Control – Personal Equipment

Section 6: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a critical component of infection control for paramedics. PPE serves as a barrier to prevent the transmission of infectious agents between patients and healthcare providers. The types of PPE commonly used by paramedics include:

  1. Gloves: Gloves act as a barrier against direct contact with bodily fluids and contaminated surfaces. Paramedics should wear disposable gloves whenever there is a possibility of exposure to blood, body fluids, or open wounds.
  2. Masks: Masks, including surgical masks and respirators, are essential for preventing respiratory infections from spreading. They protect paramedics from inhaling respiratory droplets expelled by patients.
  3. Gowns: Gowns provide full-body protection against splashes, spills, and contact with contaminated surfaces. They are particularly important when dealing with patients with suspected or confirmed infectious diseases.
  4. Eye Protection: Eye protection, such as goggles or face shields, is vital for preventing infections transmitted through mucous membranes, like the eyes.

Section 7: Gloves: Selection and Proper Use

The selection of gloves depends on the nature of the paramedic’s tasks and the potential exposure risks. Nitrile gloves are preferred due to their resistance to various chemicals and pathogens. Latex gloves may cause allergic reactions in some individuals and should be avoided when possible.

To use gloves effectively, paramedics should:

  1. Perform Hand Hygiene: Before donning gloves, paramedics must perform hand hygiene using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Inspect Gloves: Check gloves for any signs of damage or tears before wearing them. Discard gloves with defects and use a new pair.
  3. Don Gloves Properly: Put on gloves carefully to avoid contamination. Ensure they fit snugly and cover both hands completely.
  4. Avoid Cross-Contamination: Change gloves between patients or when moving from a contaminated to a clean area. Never touch non-contaminated surfaces with contaminated gloves.
  5. Doff Gloves Safely: Remove gloves without touching the outside surface. Peel them off from the wrist, turning them inside out, and dispose of them in the appropriate container.

Section 8: Masks and Respirators: Selection and Proper Use

Masks and respirators are essential for protecting paramedics from respiratory infections. Surgical masks provide a barrier against larger respiratory droplets, while respirators (N95 or equivalent) offer a higher level of protection against airborne particles.

To use masks and respirators effectively, paramedics should:

  1. Select the Appropriate Type: Choose the appropriate mask or respirator based on the patient’s condition and the suspected mode of transmission.
  2. Perform Hand Hygiene: Clean hands before putting on the mask or respirator.
  3. Fit the Mask Properly: Surgical masks should cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the face. Respirators should form a tight seal over the nose and mouth.
  4. Avoid Touching the Front: Refrain from touching the front of the mask or respirator while in use to prevent contamination.
  5. Doff Masks Carefully: Remove masks by the ear loops or ties without touching the front, and discard them in a waste container.
  6. Perform Hand Hygiene After Removal: After removing the mask or respirator, perform hand hygiene again.

Section 9: Gowns and Protective Clothing: Selection and Proper Use

Gowns and protective clothing are vital when caring for patients with infections that can be transmitted through contact or splash. Disposable gowns made of fluid-resistant material provide the necessary protection.

To use gowns and protective clothing effectively, paramedics should:

  1. Select the Right Type: Choose a gown appropriate for the level of anticipated exposure. Gowns may be reusable or disposable, depending on the situation.
  2. Put on Gown Properly: Don the gown carefully, ensuring full coverage of the front and back of the body.
  3. Secure Gown Closures: Fasten gown closures securely to minimize the risk of exposure.
  4. Remove Gown Safely: Take off the gown without touching the outside surface, and discard it in the appropriate container.

Section 10: Hand Hygiene and Its Significance

Hand hygiene is the cornerstone of infection control and is essential for preventing the spread of infections in healthcare settings. Paramedics should perform hand hygiene:

  1. Before Patient Contact: Clean hands before approaching a patient to minimize the risk of transmitting infections.
  2. After Patient Contact: Perform hand hygiene immediately after patient contact, removing gloves and before touching non-contaminated areas.
  3. After Removing PPE: Clean hands after doffing all PPE to ensure no pathogens remain on the skin.
  4. When Hands Are Visibly Soiled: Handwashing is necessary when hands are visibly dirty or contaminated with blood, body fluids, or other potentially infectious materials.

Section 11: Who to Hand Wash

Paramedics should perform handwashing after any situation that may result in hand contamination. This includes before and after patient contact, after handling patient equipment, and before eating or handling food.

Handwashing is essential to protect both the paramedic and the patient. By maintaining clean hands, paramedics reduce the risk of transmitting infections to vulnerable patients, particularly those with weakened immune systems or chronic illnesses.

In conclusion, infection control is a critical component of paramedic training and practice. Understanding the most common infections, their modes of transmission, and the importance of infection control measures is fundamental for providing safe and effective pre-hospital care. Proper usage of personal protective equipment, such as gloves, masks, respirators, and gowns, plays a crucial role in minimizing the risk of infection transmission. Additionally, practicing regular hand hygiene is vital for paramedics to protect themselves, their patients, and the community from the spread of infectious agents. By adhering to stringent infection control protocols, paramedics can ensure the delivery of high-quality emergency medical services while maintaining the safety and well-being of all stakeholders involved.