Home Care for Infectious Diseases

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Information on Home Care for Infectious Diseases

(Preventive Steps to be taken against Infectious Diseases at home)

With infectious or contagious diseases special measures must be taken to minimize spread, some requiring greater precautions than others.


One particular room should be set apart as the sickroom, kept attractive and cheerful as one of the factors in recovery is a happy state of mind, and the patient should remain there until the doctor says the illness no longer is infectious.  The drapes, pictures and desirable articles of furniture except as these crowd the room or interfere with the patient's care, need not be removed from the room.  This room should also be closed to the bathroom or has an attached bathroom for convenience.  All windows should be screened to keep out insects, which in some diseases serve as germ carriers.


Certain materials and utensils necessary for the patient's care should be kept neatly on a bedside table or chair in the patient's room until he recovers and care should be taken in the daily cleaning of the sickroom to avoid raising dust that might carry germs to other parts of the house.  The flour should be damp-dusted or mopped rather than swept with a broom.  The use of a vacuum cleaner is reasonably safe.


First Steps in Protection:

Germs are easily carried by "droplet infection".  They ride on tiny droplets of moisture expelled from a person's mouth during sneezing or coughing.  All persons should cover the mouth and nose with a handkerchief when sneezing or coughing, a precaution doubly important for the patient with contagious disease.  The person in attendance should also try not to breathe air from the patient's nose and mouth.  If the patient will not cover his mouth and nose when sneezing, the attendant may wear a surgical mask.  Germs can also be carried by the patient's sputum, by discharges from his nose and open wounds, and by the urine and feces.


Hand Washing and Nail Care:

In routine patient care, the attendant's hands become contaminated.  Without proper cleansing, the hands can carry germs from the patient to objects and other people.  Any one caring for a sick person should be careful not to touch his own face and hair.  Hands should be carefully washed after each contact with the infected person, preferably with warm running water and plenty of soap, taking time to work the suds in between the fingers and high onto the wrists.  Clean the fingernails with an orange stick or other blunt instrument while washing the hands.  Paper towels are preferable because they are disposable.  When frequent washings irritate the skin, use a hand lotion.


Wearing a Gown:

It is easy for the attendant's clothes to become contaminated while waiting on a patient.  This may spread the infection to other persons.  The attendant may wear a covering garment (gown) whenever he comes in contact with the patient or his bedclothing.  It is not necessary, of course, to put on a gown simply to hand the patient a book or a drink of water.  The gown need not be the same type as worn in a hospital, but should have long sleeves and fully cover the attendant.  A housecoat or long smock is suitable.  It should be left hanging near the door in the patient's room when the attendant leaves and easily available when he returns.  The attendant should wash his hands after the gown is removed.


Care of the Patient's Dishes:

All food remaining on the patient's dishes should be discarded at once.  If disposal is in a garbage can, it is best to place the leftovers from the patient's dishes in a proper sack and close it tightly before placing it in the garbage can.  This prevents flies and other insects from having access to the food fragments.  Wash dishes from the patient's room separately in a dishwasher or by hand, with abundant soap or detergent, and then stack to drain.  Rinse gain with boiling water and allow to drain dry rather than using a dish towel.  After they are dry, they may be safely returned to the dish cupboard with other household dishes.


Disposal of Wastes:

For discharges from the patient's nose, mouth or infected wounds, the safest disposal is to collect them in paper tissue in a tightly closed paper sack to be incinerated.  Urine and feces from the patient can be safely flushed down the toilet if the home has a functioning septic tank or is connected to a city sewer system in which the sewage is scientifically treated rather than discharged into a stream or lake.  Otherwise, the patient's body wastes should be chemically treated before being emptied.  For this, place in a covered container of at least two gallons capacity and mix with a 5 percent solution of a phenol or cresol-type disinfectant.  These are available at the drugstore, and a 5 percent solution is prepared by mixing one part disinfectant with nineteen parts water.  The wastes should remain the the disinfectant solution for an hour before being emptied.  Keep the bottle of disinfectant out of the reach of children.  It is poisonous.


The Patient's Laundry:

The patient's laundry, including bed linen and towels, should be washed promptly after removal from the sickroom.  It should be washed separately, but may be washed in the washing machine or by the usual method.  The water used should be steaming hot, with abundant soap or detergent.  Laundry contaminated by the patient's discharges should be boiled for five minutes before being washed.  If the household wash is sent to a commercial laundry, that from the patient's room should be packaged separately and labeled to warn that it contains contaminated articles.


Mental Hygiene for the Patient:

A patient has emotional as well as physical needs.  Attendants should maintain a cheerful attitude and do what they can to make the surroundings pleasant.  As the doctor approves, the patient should be allowed to engage in pleasant activities.  These will help to occupy his mind and will improve his morale.


Returning the Sickroom to General Use:

After a patient has recovered, contagious germs may linger in the sickroom.  Thus, certain precautions should be taken before the sickroom is returned to general use.  Woodwork, the bare portion of the floor, and furniture should be washed with soap and water and the room aired for several hours.  Articles such as toys and hot-water bottles should be washed and placed in the sunshine to dry.  Blankets, rugs, drapes should be aired in sunlight for six hours or more.  Utensils should be washed carefully with soap and water and, if they will not be damaged by the heat, placed in actively boiling water for at least five minutes.  The thermometer should be washed with soap and cool water, soaked in alcohol for thirty minutes, rinsed, and dried.


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