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Do arts and crafts carry a serious needle injury risk?

March 15, 2016

Arts and crafts are typically seen as harmless pastimes, but could activities such as embroidery and knitting put people at increased risk of needle injuries?

Only a little - but it's still something for crafters and healthcare workers alike to be aware of to prevent the spread of infections.

Carers looking after patients in a residential home with shaky hands may need to be extra vigilant when they are knitting, while doctors or nurses taking crafts to work with them to amuse themselves on their breaks need to ensure they are practising exemplary hygiene levels to prevent contamination.

Similarly, individuals who have been diagnosed with blood-borne infections, such as HIV or hepatitis C, need to exercise greater care when partaking in needle-based crafts. If they prick themselves with a needle, they run the risk of passing on their condition to anyone else who uses it.

Here, we take a look at how arts and crafts can be enjoyed safely, and how needles should be looked after and disposed of to prevent potentially dangerous infections from being spread.

Knitting

Many knitters find the activity to be therapeutic and calming, while others enjoy it because it allows them to keep their hands and minds busy.

Knitting is encouraged in some hospitals, with doctors urging patients or their family and friends to take part in a useful craft while they are waiting around. For instance, some visitors are given the option to knit squares that will be joined together to make blankets at a later date.

However, back in 2007, Congleton War Memorial Hospital in Cheshire removed its 'knit a square while you're waiting' box out of the waiting room for health and safety reasons, much to visitors' and local MPs' dismay.

At the time, Bernie Salisbury, director of nursing and operations at the East Cheshire NHS Trust, stated: "We believe this sensible and proactive measure will avoid preventable accidents."

Yet such incidents could also be avoided with common sense and by following the needle disposal tips detailed below.

Needlework

Knitting is not the only needle-based craft that carries risks, as embroidery and machine sewing involve smaller needles that could also result in accidental stabbings of the skin.

Although usually not serious, if it is a HIV or hepatitis C patient who pricks themselves while doing needlework or operating a sewing machine, the consequences can be serious.

Anyone else who touches that needle is put at risk of contracting the same illness, meaning it is of the utmost importance that the instrument is disposed of properly, as soon as possible.

Disposing of old equipment

The best way to prevent a needle-based injury from occurring is to ensure that those used in sewing machines are stable and connected adequately before starting the device. It's also important for the user to keep their fingers out of the way of the running needle as best as they can, as this is typically how most sewing-related injuries happen.

In addition, sewers should try to ensure that they aren't distracted when completing tasks, as this is likely to help reduce the risk of an injury that could not only ruin a project, but also pass on a possibly dangerous infection.

When it comes to disposing of needles, whether that's small embroidery ones or larger ones used for knitting, it is vital that they are wrapped in newspaper, plastic bags or other wrapping for cushioning to prevent the refuse collector or anyone else who uses the bin from being pricked.

For extra caution, taking them to the nearest medical centre or pharmacy and disposing of them in a designated sharps bin is recommended. This may seem like a lot of effort to go to, but it's always better to be safe than sorry, particularly where potentially life-threatening conditions are concerned.

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