Possible Occupational Exposure?
Oct 22, 2007
Hi Dr. Frascino, I'm in my first semester of nursing school and already into clinical rotations. I came in contact with a patient who was diagnosed as "failure to thrive" with classic symptoms of AIDS, although AIDS/HIV was not documented in his chart. I did not wear gloves as I was examining him and do not remember if he was bleeding. He had a lot of dark red/purple discoloration on his legs and it was dark in the room so I could not tell if he was bleeding. Next I did something stupid. I left the room and don't remember if I washed my hands. I sat down to fill out my assessment of him and picked my lip until it bled pretty bad (nervous habit and no chapstick). Obviously, my hands weren't dripping in blood and I wasn't doing an invasive procedure, but even a small amount of his blood in my lip wound would be enough to at least be a cause for concern. 4 days later, I get a sore throat that sticks around for about 5 hours and goes away. Now I don't know what to think. Other than my occupation, I live a very low HIV risk life. I'm married and faithful, never in my life did any drugs. I apologize in advance for posting under the subject "Questions about safe sex and HIV prevention" since my issue has nothing to do with this but I had a difficult time navigating to the right area on this website. Any feedback would be appreciated! I'm worried sick!!
Response from Dr. Frascino
"Failure to thrive" and "HIV/AIDS" are two very different illnesses. Next, your nervous lip picking is a bad habit. I suggest you stop and carry ChapStick instead! Your HIV risk from the activity you describe is nonexistent. However, now that you are beginning your clinical rotations it's essential you learn "universal precautions for bloodborne pathogens" (HIV, hepatitis). This information should have been mastered before you began your clinical rotations! Talk to your instructors if you haven't yet been thoroughly instructed on these precautions, OK?
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