When you enter the ICU you will need to wash your hands and wear a disposable plastic apron to prevent the spread of germs. On leaving the unit, you will be asked to remove your apron and disinfect your hands with alcohol gel.

 

When patients are sick for a long time or their immune system is not working well, and especially if they need lots of antibiotic treatments, they become vulnerable to acquiring new infections. There are lots of measures taken in intensive care to minimise these risks but they cannot be removed completely. Unfortunately in hospitals the necessary use of antibiotics means that the bacteria get used to them and become resistant. Being aware of the organisms around enables us to treat patients who develop infections and who might be carrying resistant versions with the right antibiotics. The difficulty comes when the antibiotics available to treat the resistant bugs aren't always as effective at killing them.

Hygiene is therefore very important to try to prevent patients catching new infection, but it should be remembered that many patients have been unwell before and arrive in the hospital or on the intensive care unit already carrying the infection with resistant bacteria that were just not known about.

To summarise - it is important to remember that bacteria could be passed both ways – from a visiting person to a patient as well as the other way round - from a patient to a visitor.

 

What you can do:

  • Observe the signs and messages concerning hand cleansing
  • Take advice from the ICU staff about numbers of visitors
  • Wash your hands and put on a plastic apron before visiting any patient in the unit
  • Keep outside the clinical area of each bed that is identified by a red line
  • Do not move to another patient area or leave the ICU until you have discarded your apron and cleansed your hand
  • In the interests of all the patients in the ICU please do not visit if you are feeling unwell