What to do if you experience a sharp injury?

Do All Splashes and Needlesticks Need Treatment?

Always wash away any body fluids and clean any needlesticks or other injuries, but talk to your healthcare provider about whether you actually need treatment. If the needle or sharp has not been used on anyone else, it won’t, of course, transmit any infections from anyone else. An injury though can always become infected like any other injury so it’s important to keep any injury clean.

If, on the other hand, the needle to sharp had been used on someone else, the source patient (whose blood was on the needle) could transmit infection. But if the person does not have any infections that you might be concerned about, you may not be at risk for anything in particular. This is something you should talk about with a healthcare professional to help understand what risks you may or may not face.

If you’re a healthcare provider, you may know whether the patient had HIV, Hep B, or Hep C. Depending on the laws and regulations, there may be a way to quickly find out if the source patient is infected with any of these viruses. This will depend on where you are and what the exposure was. Please talk to your healthcare provider about this.

Likewise, not all body fluids transmit all infections.

HIV is transmitted by:

  • Blood
  • Amniotic Fluid
  • Semen and pre-seminal fluid
  • Rectal fluids
  • Vaginal fluid
  • Breast milk

HIV can also be transmitted by fluids that would only be reached by a needle or scalpel during a medical procedure:

  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Pleural fluid (that builds up around the lungs)
  • Synovial fluid (from within joints)
  • Ascites or Peritoneal fluid (from inside the abdomen)
  • Pericardial fluid (that builds up around the heart)

However, other fluids would normally have to have blood present to transmit HIV. The risk of HIV transmission is very low, without blood, from:

  • Urine
  • Spit
  • Saliva
  • Sputum
  • Sweat
  • Tears
  • Feces
  • Nasal Secretions
  • Vomit

This means that being spit on is not a risk factor for HIV. Likewise, being scratched also doesn’t spread HIV if there is no contact with HIV+ blood.

HIV is also not spread through swimming, the air, mosquitoes, hugging, sharing toilets, sharing food or drinks. Likewise, although Hepatitis B virus can be found in saliva and spit, it is not believed to be spread through kissing or sharing utensils, per the CDC.

Also, the good news is that needles do not remain infectious for long. An old needle, long abandoned on the street, is unlikely to be a risk, but do talk to your healthcare provider about each exposure.

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