Elsevier

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Aug.5.2020
Apr.17.2020

Elsevier Patient Education

 Body Fluid Exposure Information

Body Fluid Exposure Information

People come in contact with blood and other body fluids in many ways. Sometimes, body fluids may have germs (bacteria or viruses) that can cause infections. These germs can be spread when an infected person's body fluids come in contact with the mouth, nose, eyes, genitals, or broken skin of another person. Broken skin includes chapped skin, cuts, abrasions, or irritation and swelling of the skin (dermatitis).
You are more likely to be exposed to infected body fluids if you:
  • Are a health care worker or family member who is taking care of a sick person.
  • Use needles to inject drugs, and you share needles with other users.
  • Have sex or engage in other sexual activities without using a condom or other protection.
The risk of an infection spreading through exposure to body fluids is small and depends on several factors. These include:
  • The type of body fluid.
  • How you were exposed to the body fluid.
  • The type of infection.
  • The risk factors of the person who is the source of the body fluid. Your health care provider can help you assess the risk.

What types of body fluids can spread infection?

The following body fluids can spread infections:
  • Blood.
  • Semen.
  • Vaginal secretions.
  • Urine.
  • Feces.
  • Saliva.
  • Nasal or eye discharge.
  • Breast milk.
  • Amniotic fluid.
  • Fluids surrounding body organs.
  • Pus or other fluids coming from a wound.

What are some first-aid measures for body fluid exposure?

The following steps should be taken as soon as possible after you are exposed to body fluids:

Intact skin

  • For contact with closed skin, wash the area with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.

Broken skin

  • For contact with broken skin:
    • Let the area bleed a little.
    • Wash the area well with soap and water. If soap is not available, use just water or hand sanitizer.
    • Place a bandage or clean towel on the wound and apply gentle pressure to stop the bleeding. Do not squeeze or rub the area.
Do not use harsh chemicals such as bleach or iodine.

Eyes

  • Rinse your eyes with water or saline solution for 30 seconds or longer.
  • If you are wearing contact lenses, leave the contact lenses in while rinsing your eyes. After the rinsing is complete, remove the contact lenses.

Mouth

  • Spit out the fluids. Rinse with water 4–5 times, spitting it out each time.

When should I seek help?

After performing first aid:
  • Call your health care provider or seek emergency care right away if blood or other body fluids made contact with broken skin or the eyes, nose, mouth, or genitals.
  • Tell your work supervisor immediately if the exposure to body fluid happened in the workplace. Follow your company's procedures for dealing with body fluid exposure.

What will happen after I report the exposure?

Your health care provider will ask you several questions, including questions about:
  • Your medical history, including vaccine records.
  • Date and time of the exposure.
  • Whether you saw body fluids during the exposure.
  • Type of body fluid you were exposed to.
  • Volume of body fluid you were exposed to.
  • How the exposure happened.
  • Any devices used, such as needles.
  • The area of your body that made contact with the body fluid.
  • Any injury to your skin or other areas.
  • How long contact was made with the body fluid.
  • Whether the person whose body fluid you were exposed to has certain risk factors or health conditions, if known.
Your health care provider will assess your risk for infection. Often, no treatment is necessary. However, in some cases:
  • Your health care provider may recommend doing blood tests right away.
  • Follow-up blood tests may also be done at certain times during the upcoming weeks and months to check for any changes.
  • You may be offered treatment to prevent infection after exposure (post-exposure prophylaxis). This may include certain vaccines or medicines. This is necessary when there is a risk of a serious infection, such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) or hepatitis B. Your health care provider will discuss the right treatment and vaccines with you.

How can I prevent infection?

To reduce your chances of getting an infection

  • Make sure your vaccines are up to date, including vaccines for tetanus and hepatitis.
  • Learn and follow any guidelines for preventing exposure (universal precautions) that are provided at your workplace.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important. You will need to be monitored after you are evaluated for exposure to body fluids.

To avoid spreading infection to others

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Do not share toothbrushes, razors, dental floss, or other personal items.
  • Keep open wounds covered.
  • Dispose of any items with blood on them by putting them in the trash. This includes razors, tampons, and bandages.
  • Do not have sex or engage in sexual activities until you know you are free of infection.
  • Do not donate blood, plasma, breast milk, sperm, or other body fluids.
  • Do not share drug supplies with others. These include needles, syringes, straws, and pipes.
  • Follow all instructions from your health care provider for preventing the spread of infection.

Summary

  • Contact with blood and other body fluids can happen in many ways. Sometimes, body fluids may have germs that can cause an infection.
  • Treatment depends on the type of body fluid you were exposed to and what part of your body was exposed.
  • Call your health care provider or seek emergency care right away if blood or other body fluids made contact with broken skin or the eyes, nose, mouth, or genitals.
  • Make sure all your vaccines are up to date, including vaccines for tetanus and hepatitis.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.