What Is the Recommended PPE for Handling Infectious Patients?

recommended ppe for handling infectious patients

What Is the Recommended PPE for Handling Infectious Patients?

In healthcare settings, the safety of both healthcare workers and patients is of paramount importance. One crucial aspect of ensuring safety is the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE refers to specialized clothing or equipment worn by healthcare workers to protect against infectious materials and prevent the spread of infections. This article will delve into the importance of PPE, its components, and the recommended PPE for handling infectious patients.

The Importance of Personal Protective Equipment

recommended ppe for handling infectious patients

PPE acts as a barrier between healthcare workers and infectious agents, such as viruses and bacteria. By creating a physical barrier, PPE prevents direct contact between healthcare workers and potentially harmful substances, including blood, body fluids, and respiratory secretions. When used properly in conjunction with other infection control practices, such as hand hygiene, PPE minimizes the spread of infections from one person to another.

Healthcare facilities, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, dental practices, and clinical labs, rely on PPE to protect their staff and patients. It is crucial for healthcare workers to understand the importance of PPE and utilize it appropriately to safeguard themselves and those under their care.

Components of Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment encompasses various items that provide different forms of protection. These components include:


Gloves are an essential component of PPE and should be worn when there may be exposure to blood, bodily fluids, secretions, or excretions. They create a barrier between the healthcare worker’s hands and potentially infectious materials. Gloves should be changed between patients and different procedures on the same patient to prevent cross-contamination. Gloves should also be changed if the patient interaction involves using portable computer keyboards or other mobile equipment that is transported from room to room.

There are different types of gloves available, including polythene, vinyl, latex, and nitrile gloves. Each type has its advantages and suitability for specific situations. Proper storage, use, and disposal of gloves are crucial to maintaining their effectiveness.

Aprons and Gowns

Disposable plastic aprons with sleeves or gowns protect healthcare workers’ clothing from moisture and soiling during direct patient care when there is potential for splash or spray to the arms or torso . In most cases, plastic aprons are suitable for standard precautions. However, in situations where extensive contamination with blood or body fluids is anticipated, such as maternity units or emergency departments, long-sleeved fluid-repellent gowns may be more appropriate.

Aprons and gowns should be stored in a clean area and changed between patients and different procedures on the same patient. Proper removal and disposal methods should be followed to minimize the risk of contamination.

Masks and Respirators

Masks and respirators are essential in preventing the transmission of respiratory infections. They protect healthcare workers from inhaling infectious droplets expelled by patients. Surgical masks are commonly used in healthcare settings to provide a barrier against respiratory secretions, while respirators, such as N95 masks, offer a higher level of filtration and fit tightly to the face.

The use of masks and respirators should be based on the specific situation and the level of respiratory risk involved. Proper fit, handling, and disposal are crucial to ensure their effectiveness.

Eye Protection

Eye protection, such as goggles or face shields is necessary when there is a risk of splashing body fluids onto mucous membranes, particularly the eyes and nose. Personal glasses are not a suitable substitute for dedicated eye protection. Proper decontamination and hand hygiene should be observed after removing eye protection.

These are the primary components of PPE, but other items, such as shoe covers and head covers, may be necessary depending on the specific situation and the level of risk involved.

Recommended PPE for Handling Infectious Patients

The choice of PPE for handling infectious patients depends on a comprehensive risk assessment. Evaluating potential exposure to blood, body fluids, and infectious agents is crucial in determining the appropriate level of protection required. The following guidelines and recommendations can serve as a basis for selecting PPE:

Contact Precautions

Contact precautions are necessary when there is direct or indirect contact with a patient who has an infection with an organism transmitted fecal-orally or through wound and skin infections. This includes infections caused by organisms like Clostridium difficile and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Generally, contact precautions are used when an infection is caused by a multiple drug resistant organism (MDRO).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PPE required for contact precautions includes gloves and a gown. Additional protection, such as masks and eye protection, may be necessary if there is a possibility of contact with bodily secretions.

Droplet Precautions

Droplet precautions are necessary when dealing with patients infected with pathogens, such as influenza, that can be transmitted through respiratory droplets. These droplets are generated when a person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Transmission can also occur when someone comes into close contact with an infected individual’s breathing.

In addition to standard precautions, healthcare workers should wear protective surgical masks when interacting with infected patients within a distance of three to six feet. Patient placement in individualized rooms, when possible, further reduces the risk of transmission.

Airborne Precautions

Airborne precautions are required when entering a patient’s room or environment where there is a high suspicion of airborne pathogens, such as tuberculosis, disseminated shingles, or measles. These pathogens are transmitted through small particles that remain suspended in the air for extended periods.

In addition to standard precautions, the CDC recommends the use of N95 respirator masks properly fitted for healthcare workers. Patients diagnosed with or suspected of having an airborne infectious organism should be placed in negative pressure rooms known as airborne infection isolation rooms (AIIRs) to minimize the risk of transmission.

It is crucial for healthcare workers to adhere to and comply with the appropriate PPE and infection control measures when handling infectious patients. Proper training, education, and regular updates on guidelines and best practices are essential in ensuring the effective use of PPE and preventing the spread of infections.

Implementing Proper Use of PPE in Healthcare Facilities

recommended ppe for handling infectious patients

Healthcare facilities should prioritize the availability and proper use of PPE, providing training and education to healthcare workers on its appropriate utilization. Additionally, competency should be assessed at a range of times, from new hire orientation and meeting annual requirements to an as needed basis. This gives personnel the opportunity to remain competent for any healthcare worker required to use PPE. By implementing comprehensive infection control measures and adhering to PPE guidelines, healthcare workers can create a safer environment for themselves, their patients, and the community as a whole. Contact Infection Control Results today to learn how we can help improve the use of personal protective equipment in your healthcare facility.