Many people have an instinctive fear of blood. It turns out that there are many reasons to be apprehensive of blood, but if we are armed with the correct information, it is relatively simple to protect ourselves and those we love from harm. However, if precautions are not taken, especially in higher risk situations, diseases can be passed from the host to another person.
Bloodborne pathogens are carried in the blood and can cause disease in people. These viruses and bacteria can be transmitted from one person to another through infected blood and other bodily fluids.
Bloodborne pathogens include, but are not limited to:
- Hepatitis B (HBV)
- Hepatitis C (HCV)
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Blood may be present on a microscopic level in the following body fluids without a person’s knowledge:
- Vaginal secretions
- Cerebrospinal fluid
- Breast milk
- Synovial fluid
- Pleural fluid
- Peritoneal fluid
- Amniotic fluid
If blood is visible in any body fluid, it is contaminated.
Hepatitis B and HIV are most commonly transmitted through:
- Sexual contact
- Sharing hypodermic needles
- From mothers to their babies before birth
- From mothers to their babies at birth
- Contact between damaged/broken skin and infected body fluids
- Accidental puncture from sharps such as needles or broken glass
- Contact between mucous membranes
- Contact between infected body fluids
You may be exposed to blood in many situations, but certain professions and situations are considered higher risk. Emergency response personnel, health care workers, police officers, and other public safety workers tend to be at higher risk because of their exposure to skin injuries, sharps, and mucous membranes. Some laboratory technicians who handle blood samples are also at a higher risk. But these are not the only situations in which bloodborne pathogens can be passed from person to person. Anytime someone provides first aid or CPR, they are potentially at risk. This does not mean that you shouldn’t help someone in distress! Scroll down to learn more about how you can protect yourself and others.
High Risk of Infection
Risk of infection is highest if the skin is punctured or broken as you come into contact with infected blood.
An example of this would be a contaminated needle puncturing your skin.
Low Risk of Infection
Risk of an infection is lower if blood only comes into contact with your nose, eyes, mouth, or skin that has been previously broken.
An example of this would be if someone has blood in their saliva and they spit in your face, and it lands in your mouth or on an already existing cut or scratch.
Note: Risk of infection is very low if contaminated blood comes into contact with smooth unbroken skin.
Protecting Yourself and Others from Bloodborne Pathogens
If you come into contact with blood or body fluids, act immediately under the assumption that the fluid is infected.
- Wash blood or other fluid off of your skin with soap and lots of running water.
- If your skin is broken, encourage the wound to bleed and continue to rinse it thoroughly under running water. DO NOT suck or scrub the wound.
- Using lots of cold water, wash blood and other fluids out of your eyes, nose, or mouth. Contact lens wearers should rinse their eyes before and after taking the lenses out. When washing your mouth, rinse and spit. Do not swallow water.
Handling Dangerous Items and Cleaning Wounds
It’s all about gloves and handwashing!
When handling bodily fluids or cleaning wounds wear gloves. Children should be taught never to touch used condoms, syringes, or needles. They should also be taught to immediately report to an adult if they find one.
Wear gloves when handling any body fluids or cleaning cuts, scrapes, or wounds. Wash your hands carefully after disposing of the gloves. Several pairs of disposable gloves should be in every first aid kit.
In general, washing your hands is the best way to prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands carefully with soap and warm water for at least 15 to 20 seconds.
Many situations are too dangerous for the layperson to safely clean. Alabama Bio-Clean specializes in cleanup after a crime or trauma and offers a wide range of other decontamination services to commercial, residential, and government clients. From biohazards to extraordinary cleanup of clandestine drug labs or hoarding, our trained technicians are here to help. If there is a blood spill in your home please call Alabama Bio-Clean to clean and sanitize: 1-866-305-8001
When to Get Medical Advice
If you think you’re at risk of infection, seek immediate medical attention from your general practitioner or visit urgent care.