Our Skin: A Protective Barrier, But Home to Germs


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Many germs, especially bacteria, normally live and grow on healthy skin and usually do not cause harm.

In fact, our skin is a reservoir for germs – a place where germs live and thrive.

However, some germs on your skin, such as certain types of Strep and Staph bacteria, can cause bad infections if they enter the body.

Because germs are everywhere, it’s important to understand the ways that germs can spread from our skin and cause infections.

Germs Spread Through Touch

Your skin interacts with the environment around you every day, mostly through your hands, because we use them so much.

Germs on your skin, especially on your hands, can spread to surfaces and patients through touch.

In the same way, you can pick up germs from contaminated surfaces and patients and spread the germs to yourself and others.

However, you can help prevent the spread of germs in your work environment by properly cleaning your hands and by using gloves.

Germs Spread Through Broken Skin

Another way that germs can spread is through broken skin.

Bacteria can grow and cause harm when there are breaks or irritation in the skin.

Even small scratches, paper cuts, and rashes are vulnerable to germs that can cause infections.broken skin

That’s why it is vital to clean your hands often to prevent any germs on your skin from finding their way to patients or colleagues, other places on or in your body, or to the environment where others could pick them up.

Germs can also spread through broken skin when we do things that break the skin, like putting in an IV, drawing blood, or performing surgery. These procedures can push germs that are on the skin’s surface, or on the medical device we’re using, into the patient’s body or bloodstream, where they can cause an infection.

This is why it’s so important to follow aseptic procedures to keep germs from spreading when you’re about to put in a needle or do something else that’s going to break the skin barrier.

What Can You Do to Promote Infection Control in Your Healthcare Setting?

Remember – your skin is a germ reservoir.

Protect yourself, patients, and colleagues from infections by taking proper infection control precautions.

Access more information about infection prevention and control in healthcare by visiting resources from CDC Project Firstline.

Project Firstline creates resources, including videos and shareable images, web buttons, posters, and print materials. They also have facilitator toolkits to help workers lead trainings even if they are not an infection control expert.

Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio is working with the National Hispanic Medical Association to bring Project Firstline infection control educational content to healthcare workers, so they are equipped with the knowledge they need to protect themselves, their facilities, and their patients (Latinos and all communities) from infectious disease threats in healthcare settings.

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“Healthcare teams in hospitals, nursing homes, and other care settings are the front lines against the spread of infection,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. “CDC’s Project Firstline is bolstering those efforts by developing evidence-based tools that can be delivered in a variety of ways to make infection control learning convenient and accessible for busy healthcare staff.”

Learn More about Project Firstline!

 Editor’s Note: This article is part of a collaboration between Salud America!, the National Hispanic Medical Association, and the CDC’s Project Firstline. To find resources training materials, and other tools to bolster knowledge and practice of infection control, visit Project Firstline and view Salud America!’s infection control content.


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