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Stay Safe With "Sharps"

An expert nurse offers advice for patients who self-infuse medicines at home.

syringe needles in a medical grade sharps container

Many people who need infused medicines learn to do this themselves, which means they must handle “sharps,” including needles and other tools that can cause injury.

Most needle sticks occur when someone is disposing of a sharp, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They might try to dispose of a needle when the container that’s too full or leave a needle out instead of disposing of it right away.

How can patients and their families reduce their risk of getting jabbed? We asked Marlene M. Steinheiser, Director of Clinical Education for the Infusion Nurses Society based in suburban Boston.

1. Get trained by a pro.

A first visit with a home infusion nurse can teach patients the basics, including safety, Steinheiser said. The nurse should follow up, watching the patient self-infuse to make sure the patient understands the directions and is infusing properly.

2. Create a calm environment for your at-home infusion.

Avoid distracting times and situations, such as playtime for children or mealtime for pets. Also, pick a safe place to store the sharps container. It should be out of the reach of children, pets, or any cognitively impaired person.

3. Streamline your process.

“Patients should have their sharps container close to them during infusions so they can easily reach the container without walking across the room, which could impose risk for sharps injury,” Steinheiser said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also recommends using an FDA-cleared sharps disposal container. Ask your health care provider, local hospital or pharmacist where and how to get one.

And though no one has been doing much vacationing during the global pandemic, think about how you’ll handle this process when you’re away from home. Carry a portable sharps disposal container to prevent mishaps, the FDA recommends.