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The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) recommendations to patients to avoid acquiring pneumonia in the hospital include the following key measures:
• Clean your hands — and make sure that your healthcare providers do the same. Keeping your hands clean is the number one way to prevent the spread of infection.
• Healthcare providers should clean their hands before and after contact with a patient who has a breathing tube, and before and after contact with any respiratory device that is used on the patient, whether or not gloves are worn.
• Ask what measures will be put in place to reduce your chances of needing a breathing tube, or to reduce the time you need to have one in place. Insertion of a breathing tube and being placed on a ventilator increase the chance of developing pneumonia. Family members should ask healthcare providers to check on the patient’s ability to breathe on their own every day so that the breathing tube can come out as quickly as possible.
• Take a deep breath and get moving. If you have been given a breathing exercise using an "incentive spirometer" do the exercises as often as your healthcare provider asks you to. When healthcare providers urge you to get up and walk around, it’s not just your muscles they want to work. Taking deep breaths and moving around as much as you can also help reduce your chances of acquiring pneumonia.
• Raise the head of the bed. Ask healthcare providers whether the head of your hospital bed should be elevated at an angle of 30-45 degrees to reduce the chances you will breathe in secretions.
• Take a "sedation vacation" — Family members should ask the healthcare team if their loved one is able to have their sedation medications stopped to see if they will be alert enough to begin the process of removing the breathing tube.
• Get a shot — If you or your loved one is at high risk for pneumococcal disease, get vaccinated before your hospital stay. The pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for all adults 65 years and older and for anyone who is 2 years and older at high risk for disease, including smokers, those with chronic illnesses or conditions that weaken the immune system, or who live in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.
• Good oral care is important to help prevent pneumonia. Family members or patients should ask the care team how often they will clean the inside of the patient’s mouth. The inside of the patient’s mouth should be cleaned on a regular basis with a toothbrush or antiseptic rinse.1