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How to deal with a needlestick injury

November 13, 2015

Working in the medical industry, it's a hazard of the job that some of the equipment you use can be toxic or dangerous, presenting a potential risk to your health if not handled correctly.

But some injuries are unavoidable, and a slight slip of the hand can unfortunately result in something rather serious - a needlestick injury.

Here, we discuss how you can reduce the chances of a sharps injury as well as the steps you should take if you are injured with a needle at work.

Avoiding needlestick injuries

Sharps safety is an area that should be at the forefront of all medical setting health and safety strategies and if the correct level of care is taken by doctors and nurses, needle injuries can be easily avoided.

To reduce the risk of such an injury, medics should make sure they wear gloves at all times when administering injections, alongside keeping the needle itself covered until it the vaccine is needed.

What's more, fitting a safety cap to the needle can prevent it from causing an injury.

Health care managers can make sure this advice is followed by ensuring it is visible to staff on posters or on an organisation's intranet to increase the amount of time employees spend thinking about sharps safety, keeping it at the forefront of their minds.

In addition, the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that doctor's surgeries and hospitals should introduce standard procedures for reporting needlestick injuries, as well as having specific rules for following these up.

NIOSH also suggests that medical centres should take steps to evaluate the effectiveness of their prevention efforts and get regular feedback on whether or not they are working to allow them to make further improvements in the future.

But unfortunately, there's no escaping the fact that accidents can happen, so doctors and nurses need to know what to do if a needlestick injury does occur.

What to do if you are injured

The biggest risk associated with sharps injuries is the potential spread of infection. Conditions such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV can all be contracted in this way.

To help prevent this, straight after being struck with the needle, you should place the wound under running water to encourage it to bleed freely and wash any potential infection away. Use plenty of soap to encourage this further.

However, make sure you don't scrub the wound as this could lead to bacteria being rubbed into the cut. And although your first instinct might be to put it to your mouth, never suck a needlestick wound as you don't know what bacteria you might be consuming by doing so.

Once the cut has been washed thoroughly, dry it and dress it with a waterproof plaster or bandage.

Then, you need to seek expert medical advice. Even if you work in the health industry and feel confident that you've cleaned the wound correctly, it's better to be safe than sorry, so either get in touch with your occupational health provider or visit your local A&E department.

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