How hospitals kill more people than car accidents

When going to the hospital, if there is anything we often expect to be, it is safe. While many diseases are caused by bacteria, hospitals may be less sterile and more dangerous than some would think.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 648,000 people in the U.S. develop infections during their hospital stay, and 75,000 die with them. This amount is more than double the yearly deaths from car crashes. Many of these illnesses can be traced back to the use of antibiotics.

“Hospitals can be hot spots for infections and can sometimes amplify spread,” said director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, M.D. “Patients with serious infections are near sick and vulnerable patients—all cared for by the same health care workers sometimes using shared equipment.”

The widespread inappropriate use of antibiotics make these situations even more dangerous. Using antibiotics incorrectly creates the perfect environment for infections to develop and spread.

Some hospitals are doing very little to nothing to help the situation, but others are taking steps to reduce infections.

Consumer Reports created hospital ratings by analyzing the occurrence of two common fatal infections; MRSA and C. diff infections. More than 8,000 patients are killed by MRSA and 60,000 become very ill from the infection every year. Investigations have shown the bacteria gets into the patients’ bodies through lines and tubes the doctors use to give the patients medication and nutrients. C. diff are even more deadly causing 27,000 deaths a year and 290,000 sick Americans.

The hospitals taking the right measures to help prevent these infections are correcting antibiotic uses by shortening the time the patients are taking them and using less broad antibiotics. They are also adding procedures to keep the hospitals cleaner.

Although some hospitals are attempting to change things, many aren’t and it may be up to you to keep yourself safer. Some things are out of your control, but here are some tips that could save your life:

When being prescribed antibiotics:

  • Asked to be specifically tested for the infection to confirm the infection and the exact type of infection
  • Ask for an antibiotic that is less broad and a better choice for your type of infection, not just any infection.
  • Ask for the shortest time the doctor suggests taking the antibiotics. This will decrease the chances of using the drugs for too long and killing off good bacteria necessary to fight off other infections.

Staying clean in the hospital:

  • Consider MRSA testing so that necessary precautions are taken
  • Use bleach wipes for bed rails, doorknobs and TV remote
  • Be careful when taking heartburn medicine, as the reduction of stomach acid can make you more likely to develop C. diff symptoms
  • Ask if tubes can be removed and changed daily
  • Use electric hair removers instead of razors to avoid having any open wounds
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