Washing your hands of caring for someone with C diff

washing handsThat does not mean that you should leave a person infected with Clostridium difficile (C. diff) to their own devices. What it means is that all employees must wash hands, starting with the caregiver. Speaking of hands, on the one hand elderly individuals, people with certain medical conditions, and people with weakened immune systems are at an increased risk of getting C. diff – that is, people who are most likely already under the supervision of a caregiver. On the other hand, this germ is transmitted from one person to another when Person A does not wash his or her hands after touching a feces-contaminated surface (toilets, bed pans, commode chairs, bed rails, rectal thermometers) and then touches an object that comes in contact with Person B’s mouth.

Preventing the transmission of C. diff

Caregiver supplies

  • Disposable gloves.
  • Tissues.
  • Soap.
  • Disinfectant.
  • Bleach.
  • Plastic trash bags.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

At home

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Use cloth towels only once or disposable towels to dry hands.
  • Wear gloves when expecting to come into contact with stool, urine, and wound drainage.
  • Wash hands after removing gloves.
  • Change and wash linens regularly or whenever they are soiled.

Hand washing


  • After using the toilet or helping someone else use the toilet.
  • After touching a dirty surface.
  • After handling soiled laundry.
  • After handling items that have been soiled by bodily fluids.
  • Before and after preparing meals.
  • Before eating meals.
  • Before and after administering medications.
  • After caring for a sick individual.
  • After touching pets.
  • After sneezing, coughing, or blowing nose.
  • Whenever hands are visibly dirty.


  • Wet hands with warm, running water.
  • Rub hands together with soap, front, back and wrists for 20 seconds – or singing Happy Birthday to yourself twice, like Larry David in Whatever Works.
  • Clean under fingernails.
  • Rinse soap off hands.
  • Dry hands with a clean towel.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a viable alternative when hands are not visibly soiled.

Never underestimate the importance of thorough hand-washing. Like Jules Winnfield told Vincent Vega, there is a big difference between washing your hands and just getting’em wet. And it’s stuff like that that brings situations to a boil. And speaking of ‘cleaners,’ one hand washes the other and both can help clean around to further prevent the transmission of C. diff.



  • Use a bleach-containing cleaner (one part bleach to ten parts water) for the bathroom and high-touch areas.
  • Wet surface well and clean vigorously.
  • Let surface air dry.
  • Pay extra attention to the toilet, flush handle, sink, door knobs, light switches, and other areas that can be soiled with stool.


  • Wash pieces of clothing separately if they are heavily soiled with stool.
  • Rinse off stool in the toilet.
  • Use the hot water cycle with soap.
  • Use bleach when fabric appropriate.
  • Dry clothes on high heat in the dryer when possible.


  • Use the dishwasher or hand-wash with soap and water.
  • Final-rinse dishes and utensils n a diluted bleach solution of one tablespoon bleach in one gallon of water if deemed necessary.


 At a healthcare facility

We’ve talked about preventing the transmission of C. diff at home. However, this infection more often than not originates and spreads in healthcare facilities. As a matter of fact, that is the reason that it is known as a hospital-acquired infection (HAI). The major cause of C. diff infection is antibiotic use, which kill both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria (“Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun”). Like  Arnaud Amalric said, Caedite eos, Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius; antibiotics kill them all and let god sort them out. C. diff thrives in this chaos, multiplying and causing disease.

The person that you provide care for may very well need to be hospitalized at some point. In that case, what to do to prevent infection in a healthcare setting? Here’s what you can do:

  • Make sure that all personnel including doctors and nurses wash their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • If you notice that healthcare providers do not practice proper hand-washing, do not hesitate to ask them nicely to go ahead and do so.
  • Make sure that the person you care for only takes antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.
  • Lead by example and wash your hands after visiting hospital restrooms and before eating at the hospital cafeteria.


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