Infection Control in the Home

These are general guidelines on infection control for family and friends providing care in the home. This information is not a substitute for instructions given by your doctor.


In order for an infection to spread, the following must be present:

  • A germ - virus or bacteria.

  • A place for the germ to live - person, animal, plant, food, soil or water.

  • A susceptible host - a person who does not have resistance (immunity) to the germ.

  • A way for the germ to enter the host:

  • Direct contact - shaking hands, hugging, etc.

  • Indirect contact - when food, water, bandages or other substances contaminated by the germ enter the host.

  • Droplets - such as those produced by a sneeze or cough which can travel several feet in the air.

  • Tiny dust particles that travel long distances in the air.

  • Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing or cough into your elbow.

  • Dispose of used tissue in the nearest waste receptacle.

  • Clean hands with soap and water, an alcohol-based rub after touching respiratory secretions or handling contaminated objects.


  • Everyone must wash hands before handling or eating food, and after using the toilet, changing a diaper, touching pets, money, uncooked food, coughing, sneezing, blowing nose, touching nose, eyes or mouth.

  • Caregivers must wash hands before and after giving care: cleaning wounds or carrying for catheters, changing bandages or handling soiled linens, and giving mouth care or cleaning private parts.

  • Wash hands properly - use lots of warm, running water and soap to lather hands and wrist. Scrub for at least 15 seconds including under the fingernails.

  • Rinse well with hands pointing down to allow germs to flow into sink. Dry with clean paper or cloth towel. Use lotion for dry skin.

  • Stock up on cleaning supplies: disinfectants, separate sponges for bathroom and kitchen, paper towels, utility gloves (replace when cracked, torn or start to peel).

  • Use bleach safely - never mix with other cleaning products!

  • Take care of your cleaning supplies - toilet brushes, mops and sponges can breed germs. Soak them in bleach and water for 5 minutes after each use.


  • Provide good ventilation in the home.

  • Be cautious with pet care - do not let those with weakened immune systems touch bird dropping, fish tank water or cat feces (change litter daily).


  • Provide liquid soap - bar soap can become a home for bacteria.

  • Change towels and washcloths daily to prevent possible fungal infections.

  • Change toothbrushes often and store them separately in a clean dry place.

  • Disinfect the toilet.

  • Clean the tub, shower and sink with standard cleaning products.

  • Mop the floor once a week with a standard cleaner.

  • Do not share personal items such as razors, toothbrushes, glasses, combs, brushes, towels and washcloths.


  • Store food carefully: refrigerate leftovers promptly in covered containers. Throw out stale or spoiled food. Clean the inside of refrigerator weekly. Keep refrigerator set at 40°F or less and freezer at 0°F or less. Thaw foods in the refrigerator or microwave. Serve foods at proper temperature.

  • Take care with meat: never eat raw. Make sure it cooked to the appropriate temperature and cook eggs until they are firm.

  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water.

  • Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils for raw and cooked foods.

  • Keep work surfaces clean.

  • Use a clean spoon each time you sample food while cooking.

  • Wash dishes and utensils in hot soapy water, air dry or use a dishwasher.

  • Do not share forks, cups or spoons during meals.

  • Do not pour used mop water down the sink. Pour it down the toilet instead.

Doing laundry

  • Wear gloves if laundry is visibly soiled.

  • Change linens once a week or when soiled.

  • Do not shake soiled linens - you may send germs into the air.

Dispose of contaminated wastes

  • Place dressings, sanitary or incontinence pads, diapers, or gloves in plastic garbage bags for disposal.


  • Inflamed skin-skin that is red, hot, swollen or has a rash.

  • Fever or chills.

  • Pus-green or yellow drainage from a wound.

  • Nausea or vomiting.

  • Persistent diarrhea.

  • Cough or sore throat.

  • Painful urination.