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Tips to Prevent Infections

Regular doctor visits, exercise, taking prescribed medications, and having good habits (no smoking, no illegal drugs, and limited alcohol use) are all pieces of the puzzle to good health.

But one thing more than anything can be the biggest obstacle to living a long, healthy life: infection. Even if you do all the “right” things, infection can oftentimes throw you off your right path.

That’s why mid-October is such an important part of infection awareness. From Oct. 14-20 this year, the health community observes International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW), instituted in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. This year’s theme for IIPW is “Protecting Patients Everywhere.”

In a perfect world, there would be no infection. Everyone would enjoy perfectly healthy, productive, and long lives.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. For all the strides the medical profession has made in curing or at least reducing infections over the years, fighting infections remains a never-ending battle.

Senior citizens are particularly prone to infection due to age, and oftentimes not being in the best of physical health.

That’s why it’s important, particularly for those on Medicare, to know what they’re up against infection-wise, and how to improve their odds of keeping infection at bay.

Here are some key tips:

1 Keep your hands clean at all times. While this may seem simplistic, it’s also the No. 1 most effective preventative measure to keep yourself from becoming infected.

Germs are everywhere, in your home or a healthcare facility. They spread in various ways, including airborne infections (such as from sneezing), but it’s the actual touching of another human being (such as shaking hands) or touching objects touched by others such as door knobs, car doors, toilet seats, and flush handles, that are the most fertile breeding grounds for infection.

While doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers are certainly not immune from infections, did you ever wonder why it seems so many rarely come down with illness? Think about it: a doctor can see 20 or more patients a day. Particularly during high-infection tides, such as flu season, how is it that the healthcare workers remain healthy?

It starts with something very simple as washing your hands (and also using hand sanitizer).
2 Always follow safe injection practices. The most important mantra: ONE needle or ONE Syringe, used only ONE time. In other words, do not re-use needles, no matter if it is a big needle or a small needle such as those that are used by Type 2 diabetics.
3 Ask about vaccines. Vaccines are one of the most important parts of your overall health care. Consider this: the majority of Americans who die prematurely from vaccine-preventable diseases or infections each year likely would not have died if they had been vaccinated!

Also keep in mind: most vaccines (like flu shots) are free or low-cost. Doesn’t it make sense to avoid suffering and potentially dying from an infection that can be prevented by simply being vaccinated?
4 Keep your living space/healthcare facility room clean. Whether you are in a hospital, long term or nursing facility, or are treated medically at home, either keep the room clean yourself if you can, or ask to have the room or equipment cleaned regularly.

This is especially important in healthcare facilities, where there are large numbers of patients that have contracted or carry any number of infections that can be passed from one patient to another.
5 Ask about medications. It’s your body and your health. Know what you’re taking, for what you are being treated, how long you should take a medication, and if there are special instructions you need to know.

Antibiotics should be taken as prescribed. Do not deviate from the frequency of taking them, and do not stop taking them even if you start feeling better. If not taken properly, antibiotics can cause bacteria that lead to even greater infections (often called “superbugs”) – that are more resistant to further treatment.
6 Speak up for yourself. Often, seniors on Medicare are afraid to ask about their care and treatment, and the medications they receive. They leave their faith and trust in the medical personnel that are treating them.
However, it does not hurt to ask questions about your care or to have a doctor or nurse explain your treatment. Don’t be shy; don’t be afraid, express your thoughts and feelings and you’ll be healthier and heartier for it!