The CDC designed universal precautions to help protect people who are providing first aid or healthcare from the spread of
Using the "better safe than sorry" principle, universal precautions are based on the assumption that blood and certain body fluids of all people carry HIV, HBV, and other bloodborne pathogens.
Barrier protection includes disposable lab coats, gloves, and eye and face protection.
- Use barrier protection at all times to prevent skin and mucous membrane contamination with blood, body fluids containing visible blood, or any other body fluids .
- Use barrier protection with all tissues. The type of barrier protection used should be appropriate for the type of procedures being performed and the type of exposure anticipated.
- Wear gloves when there is potential for hand or skin contact with blood, other potentially infectious material, or items and surfaces contaminated with these materials.
- Wear face protection (face shield) during procedures that are likely to generate droplets of blood or body fluid to prevent exposure to mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and eyes.
- Wear protective body clothing (disposable laboratory coats) when there is a potential for splashing of blood or body fluids.
- Change gloves and other protective clothing when moving from one patient (or child) to another. Wash hands thoroughly before putting on a new pair of gloves.
Thorough and frequent handwashing is essential.
- Wash hands or other skin surfaces thoroughly and immediately if contaminated with blood, body fluids containing visible blood, or other body fluids to which universal precautions apply.
- Wash hands immediately after gloves are removed.
Handle instruments with caution.
- Avoid accidental injuries that can be caused by needles, scalpel blades, or laboratory instruments when performing procedures, cleaning instruments, handling sharp instruments, and disposing of used needles, pipettes, etc.
- To prevent needlestick injuries, needles should not be recapped by hand, purposely bent or broken by hand, removed from disposable syringes, or otherwise manipulated by hand.
- Place used needles, disposable syringes, scalpel blades, pipettes, and other sharp items in puncture-resistant containers marked with a biohazard symbol for disposal.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Universal Precautions and Preventive Barriers
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Healthy Living Unit (Public Health Canada)
Public Health Canada
Universal precautions for prevention of transmission of HIV and other bloodborne infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Last updated 1996. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/bp_universal_precautions.html. Accessed on January 22, 2009.
Flemming DO, Long D, eds. Biological Safety: Principles And Practices. 4th ed. ASM Press; 2006.
Last reviewed January 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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