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Family and Children's
Resource Program

Vol. 21, No. 2
April 2016

Universal Precautions: Basic Information for Child Welfare Professionals and Resource Parents

Many child welfare professionals in North Carolina think of universal precautions as it pertains to foster care and foster home licensing. This makes sense, because state policy requires all foster parents be trained in universal precautions (and First Aid and CPR), before a child can be placed in their home.

But understanding universal precautions is important for all child welfare professionals. You just never know when you might need this knowledge. As the Boy Scouts say, it's good to be prepared.

In this spirit, we share with you the following, which is reprinted from a fact sheet from New Jersey's Foster and Adoptive Family Services (2014).

Universal Precautions
Universal precautions are actions that you take to place a barrier between yourself and potentially infected body fluids. Blood and other body fluids (e.g., semen, vaginal fluids, saliva, urine, feces, and vomit) can contain viruses and bacteria that can be passed on to another person through direct contact. Hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV, are diseases that can be transferred from one person to another through contact with infected blood and/or body fluids. Since there is no way to know without testing if a person has Hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV, it is recommended that you treat all body fluids as though they are infected. Here are suggestions for protecting yourself and others.

How do blood and body fluids spread from one person to another?
Blood and body fluids are passed from one person to another through:

  • open areas on the skin
  • splashing in the eye
  • the mouth
  • unprotected sexual activity (oral, anal, and vaginal)
  • injury with contaminated needles or other sharp objects
  • prenatally (mother to baby) and during delivery

How do you protect yourself from blood and body fluids?
The easiest way to protect yourself from blood and body fluids is to have the injured person treat his own wound. If he is unable to take care of himself, or he needs help, use latex gloves. If you do not have disposable gloves available, use a plastic bag (trash, shopping, or sandwich) over your hands to create a barrier. If you are at work, your employer must provide appropriate personal protective equipment (gloves, goggles, disinfectant, etc.). Know where these items are located so that you will be prepared to protect yourself.

How do you safely handle a bleeding injury?

  • The child or adult should hold an absorbent material to the wound; a clean disposable diaper offers a good absorbent material with the added protection of a plastic backing.
  • You can also use paper towels, tissue, or newspaper.
  • Have the injured person hold pressure until the bleeding stops.
  • Assist with placing a bandage over the wound if needed.
  • Dispose of bloody material in a plastic-lined trash can or sealed plastic bag.
  • Everyone should wash their hands with soap and running water as soon as possible. (Disinfectant waterless hand cleaners or towelettes may be used if soap and running water are not available.)

How do you clean surfaces that have blood and body fluids on them?

  • Wear disposable gloves.
  • Wash the area with soap and water, and dry the area.
  • Disinfect the surface with a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water, or you can use a hospital-strength disinfectant (e.g., Lysol, Cavicide, or Non-Acid Bathroom Cleaner (NABC). Allow the area to remain wet for at least 3 minutes before drying. Consult the container label for differences in recommendations due to product strength.
  • Use disposable cleaning materials if possible, such as paper towels instead of cloth.
  • Dispose of cleaning materials and gloves in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Wash hands with soap and running water. (Again, disinfectant waterless hand cleaners or towelettes may be used if soap and running water are not available.)

These suggestions are for information only and are not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. For more information, call your health care provider or your local health department.

References for this and other articles in this issue

Want to Learn More or Renew Your Certification?
The Red Cross offers an online course that satisfies annual OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens training requirements. Cost: $25. Online at: