Know the difference between these three words:
- Disinfection – inhibition of microorganisms
- Sterilization – destruction of microorganisms
- Sanitation – clean enough to be healthy
Disinfection involves the destruction and inhibition of microorganisms on any surface. Germicides disinfect non-living surfaces, such as the counter tops in the clinic. Antiseptics disinfect living surfaces, such as you hands.
I had a hard time trying to remember the difference between germicides and antiseptics. This is how I think of it. Your body needs microorganisms. In fact there are more bacterial cells on you than there are your own cells on you. So if you are using a germicide (germ-killing) agent on yourself you are only hurting yourself. Instead you should use and antiseptic (anti-infection). Though having microorganisms on you is good having an infection from them is bad, so use the antiseptic.
Sterilization is the destruction of microorganisms in inanimate surfaces. Sterilization processes are more intense than disinfection. An instrument in considered sterile only if bacterial spores are destroyed. Living tissue can’t be sterilized. Living tissue can only be disinfected.
Sanitation is “clean enough to be healthy.” The counters you clean in your home may be sanitized, that is if you have cleaned them today.
The most common cause of infections in the eye clinic is _Pseudomonas aeruginosa. _This bacteria likes to hang out on eyelashes. It also just so happens that the pH of the drops we use in clinic is the pH that this microorganism likes. When applying fluorescein to the eye be careful to not touch the eyelashes with the dropper. If the eyelashes are touched and a gang of _P__seudomonas aeruginosa _are picked up then the entire solution is contaminated (contains at least one microorganism). The best practice in this case would be to throw out the entire bottle.
You will also need to know that the most effective method of speeding germs is proper hand washing.
Universal precautions were typically practiced in any environment where workers were exposed to bodily fluids such as blood, seaman, and vaginal fluids. Universal precautions are good hygiene habits, such as hand washing and the use of gloves and other barriers, correct handling of needles, and sharps. Protective clothing includes gowns, gloves, face shields, and eye wear. The universal precautions were developed in the 1980s by OSHA. This is when there was a scare about AIDS and it was considered good practice to assume that everyone had AIDS.
To clean contaminated instruments it is important to scrub them until the soil is removed before disinfecting and sterilizing.
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