Accidental Needle Sticks

Overview

Many people worry about getting a disease like hepatitis or HIV from an accidental needle stick. But it doesn't happen often. Most of the time, the person on whom the needle was used doesn't have hepatitis, HIV, or another infection that can be spread that way.

When the person does have an infection that can be spread, your risk level if you are accidentally stuck by the needle depends on:

  • How much infected blood you are exposed to.
  • How much virus is in the blood. Some people with viral infections have more of the virus in their blood than others do.

Self-care

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following steps if you have any exposure to blood:

  • Wash needle sticks and cuts with soap and water.
  • Use water to flush splashed blood from your nose, mouth, or skin.
  • Wash your eyes.

    Use a steady stream of clean water, a saltwater solution, or a sterile wash.

  • Do not squeeze the area of a needle stick or cut.
  • Don't wash the area with antiseptics or bleach.

Call your doctor right away. In some cases, medicine may help to prevent infection. The sooner you start treatment, the more likely it is to work.

If you get an accidental needle stick:

  • Report it right away to the department that is responsible for managing exposures, such as occupational health or infection control.
  • Your workplace likely has guidelines that tell you what to do if you are exposed. This may involve blood tests and sometimes medicine that can help prevent infection. Make sure you know what the guidelines are.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: March 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine

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