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NC Department of Health and Human Services
NC Division of Public Health
N.C. Public Health Home

Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI)

Information for Individuals & Families

Basic Prevention Measures

Be involved!

  • Learn about HAIs.
  • Be an active member of your health care team.
  • Take part in every decision about your health care.
  • Clean your hands. Wash your own hands thoroughly – use soap and running water for 15 seconds – after blowing your nose, after using the toilet and before eating or touching food. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if you can’t wash with soap and water.

View or download a poster-sized (13 x 9.75 inches) step-by-step guide to thorough handwashing - English / Spanish (PDF, 772KB)

Speak up!

  • Ask all health care workers and visitors who have direct contact with you whether they have washed their hands.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions.
  • Make sure your doctor knows about any health conditions you have (such as diabetes), allergies, and adverse reactions you have had to medicines.
  • Make sure that all of your doctors know about the medications you are taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and dietary supplements such as vitamins and herbs.

For tips on talking to your healthcare provider, visit the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) website: Questions to Ask Your Doctor External link

Help use antibiotics wisely!

  • Just because an antibiotic is not prescribed doesn't mean you aren't sick. Ask what else can be done to help relieve your symptoms, and don't request an antibiotic when a healthcare provider determines one is not appropriate.
  • Only take antibiotics for a bacterial infection, such as strep throat, or as your doctor prescribes.
  • Taking antibiotics for a viral infection will not cure the infection, protect other individuals from catching the illness, or help you feel better.
  • Take the antibiotic exactly as the doctor prescribes. Do not skip doses. Complete the prescribed course of treatment, even if you start feeling better.
  • Only take antibiotics prescribed for you; don't share or use leftover antibiotics. Antibiotics treat specific types of infections. Taking the wrong medicine may delay correct treatment and allow bacteria to multiply.
  • Don't save antibiotics for the next illness. Discard any leftover medication once the prescribed course of treatment is completed.
  • Prevent infections through good hand hygiene and getting recommended vaccines.

Learn more about antibiotic resistance and appropriate antibiotic use.