Whether you’re undergoing surgery or just getting a stitch or two, the experience of going to the hospital is scary enough without increasing concerns about Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) making the trip downright terrifying. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans come down with 1.7 million HAIs in a given year and 99,000 of those infections result in death. Believe it or not, HAIs kill more people than AIDS, breast cancer and auto accidents combined!
One major cause of HAIs is the bacteria Clostridium difficile or C. diff. Every day, over 7,000 hospital patients in America are infected with C. diff. About 300 of them will go on to die from the bacteria. So what can you do to avoid an HAI? If you’re being admitted to the hospital any time soon, consider these few tips before you check in:
1. Wash Your Hands.
We all learned this in preschool but as adults some of us need reminding, especially when in the hospital. People touch their faces, including eyes, nose and mouth very often throughout the day even though they may not realize it. It’s incredibly important to wash your hands frequently and advise any visitors you have to do the same.
2. Watch for Symptoms.
Symptoms of C. diff infection can range from diarrhea and stomach cramps to nausea. If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to tell the nurse. Your doctor will likely administer tests to determine the cause of the symptoms. Hospital workers will likely isolate you and start wearing protective gowns and gloves to avoid spreading the infection.
3. Be Proactive. Take Probiotics.
Taking supplemental probiotics before, during and after your hospital visit can support the balance of gut flora and a healthy immune response. One probiotic called Saccharomyces boulardii is especially useful for people with C. diff, particularly those that have recurrent C. diff infections, because it works quickly and is not affected by antibiotics. Other types of probiotics can help you maintain the balance of healthy bacteria and naturally crowd out the bad bacteria. Be sure to take a supplement with a variety of strains plus a high culture count to make the most impact.
Please note: C. difficile infection is a very serious, sometimes even fatal condition and should only be treated under the care of a qualified physician. Many physicians are now treating C. diff with a combination of probiotics and antibiotics, so be sure to speak to your doctor about the supplements you wish to take.