« Staying Healthy

Avoid
Infections

Primary Immunodeficiency (PI) and infections don’t have to go hand in hand. General principles of good hygiene are essential for patients with primary immunodeficiency diseases, and their families, including routine hand washing and regular bathing.

Many infections can be prevented just by using some of the suggestions below.

Avoiding infections at school is important for those living with primary immunodeficiency.
  1. Wash your hands often. Frequent hand washing is critical to prevent the spread of infections.
  2. Review all notices from school regarding infectious disease exposure, and contact your doctor to discuss any necessary next steps.
  3. If you have been exposed to chickenpox, be sure to contact your doctor immediately for medication to prevent a bad case from occurring.

Washing hands is important for those living with primary immunodeficiency.
  1. Wash your hands before, during, and after preparing food. Other times to wash your hands include the following1:
    • Before eating food
    • After using the toilet
    • After handling money
    • After changing diapers
    • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
    • After touching an animal or animal waste
    • After touching garbage
    • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  2. Learn good handwashing techniques1:
    • First, wet your hands and apply liquid or clean bar soap. Place the bar of soap on a rack and allow it to drain.
    • Next, rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all hand surfaces.
    • Continue for at least 20 seconds. It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps dislodge and remove germs.
    • Rinse well and dry your hands.
    • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Follow these steps to avoid infections
  1. Have regular dental visits while maintaining proper brushing and flossing. Change your toothbrush after having cold symptoms.
  2. Watch out for fungal infections like athlete’s foot2:
    • Wash feet carefully
    • Do not share shoes or socks with friends
    • Nails should be clipped short and kept clean
    • Keep feet as dry as possible
    • Avoid walking barefoot in locker rooms or public showers (wear sandals)
  3. Avoid drinking nonpurified water. It may contain parasites and bacteria that can cause illness.3
  4. Avoid or decrease the risk of exposure to sick individuals. During periods of influenza outbreaks, avoid crowded areas.
  5. Wash down surfaces that are handled by sick individuals (e.g., phones, countertops, toys).
  6. Allow children with PI to participate in small classrooms or small play groups to provide greater control over the number of exposures to sickness.
  7. If you have minor cuts, burns or scrapes, wash them with soap and water. Keep the area clean and dry. Apply an over-the-counter topical antibiotic ointment/cream and monitor for any signs of infection, fever, or drainage from the wound. Be sure to notify your physician of any concerns.
  8. Treat cold symptoms aggressively with medications at home (see Common Illnesses) and seek medical attention if symptoms do not resolve in 3-5 days. Make a plan with your physician about how long to wait before seeking treatment.
  9. Do not share water bottles with friends.
Finding answers to FAQs

Discover answers to some of your most common questions about PI.

Read the FAQs

For more information, please refer to the IDF Patient & Family Handbook for Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases (5th ed) by Blaese RM, Bonilla FA, Stiehm ER, Younger ME, eds.

References: 1. Wash your hands. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. http://www.cdc.gov/features/handwashing/. Updated December 15, 2011. Accessed December 17, 2014. 2. Hygiene-related diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/disease/athletes_foot.html. Updated December 24, 2009. Accessed December 17, 2014. 3. Spring and summer outdoor safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated July 1, 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/Features/SummertimeSafety/. Accessed December 17, 2014.