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Blood and body fluid precautions are recommendations designed to prevent the transmission of HIV, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and other diseases while giving first aid or other health care that includes contact with body fluids or blood. These precautions treat all blood and body fluids as potentially infectious for diseases that are transmitted in the blood. The organisms spreading these diseases are called blood-borne pathogens.
Blood and body fluid precautions apply to blood and other body fluids that contain visible traces of blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. They also apply to tissues and other body fluids, such as from around the brain or spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid), around a joint space (synovial fluid), in the lungs (pleural fluid), in the lining of the belly and pelvis (peritoneal fluid), around the heart (pericardial fluid), and amniotic fluid that surrounds a fetus.
Although skin provides some protection from exposure to potentially infectious substances, it is strongly recommended that health professionals use blood and body fluid precautions for further protection when they are providing health care. These precautions also help protect you from exposure to a potential infection from your health professional in the unlikely event that you come in contact with the health professional's blood.
The American Red Cross recommends that everyone use blood and body fluid precautions when giving first aid.
The best practice is to always use blood and body fluid precautions, even when you can't see any blood and there's no chance that blood is present. But the precautions aren't absolutely needed if you don't see any blood when you come in contact with other body fluids, such as:
Blood and body fluid precautions involve the use of protective barriers such as gloves, gowns, masks, and eye protection. These reduce the risk of exposing the skin or mucous membranes to potentially infectious fluids. Health care workers should always use protective barriers to protect themselves from exposure to another person's blood or body fluids.
The American Red Cross recommends that everyone use blood and body fluid precautions while giving first aid. You may wish to have gloves available in your home, office, or vehicle if you think you may be required to help another person in an emergency.
Other precautions can help you minimize your risk of exposure to contaminated blood and body fluids.
Other Works Consulted
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2003). Exposure to blood: What healthcare personnel need to know. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/pdf/bbp/Exp_to_Blood.pdf.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2003). Guidelines for environmental infection control in health-care facilities: Recommendations of CDC and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC). MMWR, 52(RR-10): 1–48.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Guideline for isolation precautions: Preventing transmission of infectious agents in healthcare settings 2007. Available online:
|Primary Medical Reviewer||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine|
|Last Revised||June 6, 2012|
Last Revised: June 6, 2012
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