Being exposed to sharps (needles and other sharp medical instruments) or body fluids means that another person's blood or other body fluid touches your body. Exposure may occur after a needlestick or sharps injury. It can also occur when blood or other body fluid touches your skin, eyes, mouth, or other mucosal surface.
Exposure can put you at risk for infection.
After a needlestick or cut exposure, wash the area with soap and water. For a splash exposure to the nose, mouth, or skin, flush with water. If exposure occurs to the eyes, irrigate with clean water, saline, or sterile irrigant.
Report the exposure right away to your supervisor or the person in charge. Do not decide on your own whether you need more care.
Your workplace will have a policy about what steps you should take after being exposed. Often, there is a nurse or another health care provider who is the expert on what to do. You will likely need lab tests, medicine, or a vaccine right away. Do not delay telling someone after you have been exposed.
You will need to report:
After exposure, there is a risk you may become infected with germs. These may include:
Most of the time, the risk of becoming infected after exposure is low. But you need to report any exposure right away. Do not wait.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Sharps safety for healthcare settings. www.cdc.gov/sharpssafety/resources.html. Updated February 11, 2015. Accessed December 22, 2021.
Riddell A, Kennedy I, Tong CY. Management of sharps injuries in the healthcare setting. BMJ. 2015;351:h3733. PMID: 26223519 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26223519/.
Janssen HLA, Fung S. Hepatitis B. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 79.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 10/24/2021
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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