In general, healthy people are at a low risk of contracting a HAI like MRSA or C. difficile, including pregnant women and children, but if you are going into hospital there are several things you can do to protect yourself, and reduce your chances of contracting an infection in hospital.
In the UK, Patient Choice was launched in December 2005. This means that patients can choose one out of four or five hospitals (including NHS Trusts, Foundations and treatment centres) in which to be treated, and attempt to avoid a high risk hospital. However, when reviewing the statistics note that infection rates appear to be higher in Trusts which deal with more vulnerable patients or where high risk invasive procedures are carried out. Also, that the rates of infection are based on the number of patients moving through the hospital and sometimes patients are transferred from another hospital so some HAI cases may have come in from another Trust.
Before going into hospital start using a bactericidal soap and shampoo and continue while there, always washing or cleaning your hands after visits to the bathroom and before/after meals and wearing shoes or slippers when walking around. If you feel that the area around your hospital bed looks unclean, insist that it is cleaned. As a patient you have the right to ask whether your doctor or nurse has washed their hands before they touch you, and you can also help protect yourself by not touching your wounds or any damaged skin and regularly washing your hands to prevent self-infection. Try not to get too close to other patients and avoid all contact with other people's wounds or with material contaminated from wounds.
Patients should make sure they avoid having any wounds or open sites attended to while dusting or cleaning is being done because dust carries germs. It is advisable not to let your wounds be uncovered for any amount of time to avoid infection from the environment. Use an antibacterial cream on your skin at the site of the incision just prior to being taken for surgery and never use the toilets if they are unclean - go and report them to staff.
The Patients Association has the following ten point tips for patients:
1) Shower before going to hospital
2) Ask relatives/friends to launder clothes and sleepwear and bring personal toiletries.
3) Ask visitors to also shower before coming
4) Only have one or two visitors at a time
5) Ask visitors not to sit on the bed
6) Isolated patients must not receive visitors
7) Ask staff and visitors to wash their hands
8) Bring your own medical wipes and use regularly
9) Collect own bedside rubbish
10) Fill out hospital questionnaires