Blood and body fluid precautions are recommendations designed to
prevent the transmission of
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.
Why are blood and body fluid precautions important?
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.
Are blood and body fluid precautions always needed?
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:
Mucus from the nose or lungs.
How can you reduce your risk of exposure to blood and body fluids?
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.
Gloves protect you
whenever you touch blood; body fluids;
mucous membranes; or broken, burned, or scraped skin.
The use of gloves also decreases the risk of disease transmission if you are
pricked with a needle.
Always wear gloves for handling items or
surfaces soiled with blood or body fluids.
Wear gloves if you have
scraped, cut, or chapped skin on your hands.
Wash your hands and other skin surfaces
immediately after they come in contact with blood or body fluids.
protective eyewear, such as goggles or a face shield,
help protect your eyes, mouth, and nose from droplets of blood and other body
fluids. Always wear a mask and protective eyewear if you are doing a procedure
that may expose you to splashes or sprays of blood or body
Gowns or aprons protect you from splashes of blood or body fluids.
Always wear a gown or apron if you are doing a procedure that may expose you to
splashes or sprays of blood or body fluids.
How else can I reduce my risk?
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.
If you give injections to a family member or
Use puncture-resistant containers to
dispose of needles, scalpels, and other sharp instruments.
Do not bend or handle used needles or disposable
Avoid touching objects that may be
Learn first aid and CPR, so when you are faced with an emergency or injury, you will know what to do.
What should I do if I am exposed?
your hands immediately after any exposure to blood or body fluids, even if you
If you get splashed in the eyes, nose, or mouth, flush with water.
If you are pricked by a needle (needlestick), contact
your doctor right away for further advice.
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:
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.