Body Fluid Exposure

Body Fluid Exposure Info

People may come into contact with blood and other body fluids under various circumstances. In some cases, body fluids may contain germs (bacteriaor viruses) that cause infections.

These germs can be spread when an infected person’s body fluids come into contact with the mouth, nose, eyes, genitals, or broken skin of another person. Broken skin includes skin that has been opened by cuts, abrasions, dermatitis, or chapped skin.

Exposure to infected body fluids is a common risk for health care workers and family members who care for sick people. Other common methods of exposure include injection drug use, sharing needles, and sexual activity.

The risk of an infection spreading through body fluid exposure is small and depends on a variety of factors. These include the type of body fluid, the nature of the exposure, and the health status of the person who was the source of the body fluids. Your health care provider can help you assess the risk.

Prevention is the first defense against body fluid exposure.

What types of body fluids can spread infection?

The following body fluids have the potential to spread infections:

  • Blood.
  • Semen.
  • Vaginal secretions.
  • Urine.
  • Feces.
  • Saliva.
  • Nasal or eye discharge.
  • Breast milk.
  • Amniotic fluid.
  • Fluids surrounding body organs.

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

The following steps should be taken as soon as possible after a person is exposed to body fluids:

Intact skin

  • For contact with closed skin, wash the area with soap and water.

Broken skin

  • For contact with broken skin:
    • Let the area bleed a little.
    • Wash 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 notsqueeze or rub the area.
  • Do notuse harsh chemicals such as bleach or iodine.

Eyes

  • Rinse the eyes with water or saline for 30 seconds or longer.
  • If the person is wearing contact lenses, leave the contact lenses in while rinsing the 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.

In addition, you should remove any clothing that comes into contact with body fluids. However, if you came into contact with the fluids as a result of sexual assault, seek medical care immediately. Do notshower, take a bath, or change clothes until police collect evidence of sexual assault from your body and your clothes.

When should I seek help?

After performing the proper first-aid steps:

  • You should call your health care provider or seek emergency care right away if blood or other body fluids made contact with areas of broken skin or openings such as the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • If the exposure to body fluid happened in the workplace, you should report it to your work supervisor immediately. Many workplaces have procedures in place for exposure situations.

What will happen after I report the exposure?

Your health care provider will ask you several questions. Information requested may include:

  • Your medical history, including vaccination 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.
  • If any devices, such as needles, were being used.
  • Which area of your body made contact with the body fluid.
  • Description of any injury to the skin or other area.
  • How long contact was made with the body fluid.
  • The health status of the person whose body fluid you were exposed to, 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 intervals during the upcoming weeks and months to check for any changes.
  • You may be offered treatment to prevent an infection from developing after exposure (post-exposure prophylaxis). This may include certain vaccinations or medicines and may be 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 appropriate treatment and vaccinations with you.

How can I prevent exposure and infection?

To help prevent exposure to body fluids:

  • Wash and disinfect countertops and other surfaces regularly.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear such as gloves, gowns, masks, or eyewear when the possibility of exposure is present.
  • Wipe away spills of body fluid with disposable towels.
  • Properly dispose of blood products and other fluids. Use secured bags.
  • Properly dispose of needles and other instruments with sharp points or edges (sharps). Use closed, marked containers.
  • Avoid injection drug use.
  • Do notshare needles.
  • Avoid recapping needles.
  • Use a condom during sexual intercourse.
  • Learn and follow any guidelines for preventing exposure (universal precautions) provided at your workplace.

To help reduce your chances of getting an infection:

  • Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date, including vaccinations for tetanus and hepatitis.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If water and soap are not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid having multiple sexual partners.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important because you will need to be monitored after you are evaluated for exposure to body fluids.

To avoid spreading infection to others:

  • Do not have sexual relations until you know you are free of infection.
  • Do not donate blood, plasma, breast milk, sperm, or other body fluids.
  • Do not share hygiene items such as toothbrushes, razors, or dental floss.
  • Keep open wounds covered.
  • Dispose of any items with blood on them (razors, tampons, bandages) by putting them in the trash.
  • Do notshare drug supplies, such as needles, syringes, straws, or pipes, with others.
  • Follow all instructions from your health care provider for preventing the spread of infection.
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