Take Action: Talk with the Doctor
You and your doctor or nurse can work together to prevent infections by following these steps.
Talk with the doctor about preventing infections.
Before having surgery or getting another type of medical procedure, talk to the doctor or nurse about:
- Any medical problems you have, like diabetes
- What will be done before the procedure to help prevent an infection, like cleaning the skin with germ-killing soap
- What you can do to help protect yourself from an infection after the procedure
Start the conversation by saying, “I know how easy it is for people to get infections. I don’t want it to happen to me.”
Speak up if something doesn’t seem right.
Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions before or after your procedure. For example, if your bandages aren’t clean, dry, or attached well, point this out to the doctor or nurse. Your safety is their priority.
After your procedure, pay close attention to changes in your health. If you get home and start to feel sick or notice signs of an infection, call your doctor or nurse right away.
Take Action: Hand Washing
Always make sure your doctors and nurses wash their hands.
Politely ask your doctors and nurses if their hands are clean. This is one of the most important ways to prevent infections. Even if they wear gloves, they still need to wash their hands before putting them on – just wearing gloves is not enough to prevent infections.
If you feel uncomfortable asking the doctors or nurses if their hands are clean, remember that it’s their job to help keep you safe and healthy.
For more information, check out this patient’s guide to hand hygiene [PDF - 1.4 MB].
Ask your visitors to wash their hands, too.
Make sure your family members and friends wash their hands when they visit you. And if a loved one isn’t feeling well, ask him or her to call you instead of visiting in person.
Take Action: Follow Instructions
Take steps to prevent infections after a procedure.
- Wash your hands often, especially after you’ve had surgery. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom and before eating.
- Always wash your hands before touching a wound or catheter.
- Follow the instructions you get for what to do after a medical procedure.
- If you have a catheter, ask every day if it's time for the catheter to be removed.
- Be sure to keep any follow-up appointments.
Use medicines safely.
You may need to take antibiotics or other medicines after the procedure. Be sure to follow the instructions on when, how often, and how long you need to take your medicines. Call your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist right away if you have any questions about your medicine – or if you are worried that your medicine is making you feel worse.
If you are taking antibiotics:
- Take all doses of the antibiotic, even if you are feeling better.
- Keep taking the antibiotic unless your doctor tells you to stop.
- Never share antibiotics with others.
- Safely get rid of any antibiotics that you don't use.
- Tell your doctor or nurse if you start having diarrhea.
Get more tips to use medicines safely.
Take Action: Other Tips
Stay up to date on your shots.
Ask your doctor about important shots (vaccines) to protect you from infections.
Protect yourself from seasonal flu.
Everyone age 6 months and older needs to get a flu vaccine every year.
Quit smoking. Patients who smoke get more infections. Talk to your doctor about how you can quit before your surgery. If you smoke, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) to make your quit plan. Get more ideas for quitting smoking.