Infection prevention and control (IPC) is a term used to describe actions that help protect us from infections. You can help prevent and control infections by cleaning your hands often, keeping your living and work environments clean and tidy, getting immunized for vaccine-preventable diseases and by staying home when you are sick.
In healthcare settings, IPC actions help to protect vulnerable people from acquiring health-care associated infections. These types of infections can increase hospital lengths of stay, cause patient health complications and may even result in death.
Help prevent infections
Clean your hands
Over 80% of common infections are spread by our hands.
Germs are a part of everyday life. Some bacteria are beneficial and part of our body's natural protection against disease. Other bacteria and viruses cause disease and are introduced to the body, especially when touching hands to the mouth, nose or eyes.
It is very important to clean your hands often during the day, but most importantly:
- after using the bathroom
- after changing a diaper
- after playing with a pet
- before eating
- before and after preparing food
- after coughing or sneezing into your hand
There is more than one way to clean your hands properly. You can use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Both methods are equally good at removing harmful germs when you use the proper technique and follow some simple guidelines.
How to wash your hands using soap and water
- Wet hands with warm water. Apply soap to cover all hand surfaces and lather thoroughly.
- Vigorously rub your hands together for at least 15 seconds, but 30 seconds is best.
- Rub palms, spaces between fingers, backs of hands and wrists. Rub fingers, fingertips and thumbs.
- Rinse hands under running water.
- Pat hands dry thoroughly with a paper or single-use towel.
- Use the towel to turn off the tap.
How to use a hand sanitizer (hand rub)
Hand sanitizers, also called hand rubs, should contain at least 60% alcohol for maximum effectiveness. Hand sanitizers will not work properly if hands are visibly dirty – use soap and water instead.
- Apply enough product (either gel, liquid or foam) in the palm of one hand to cover all hand surfaces.
- Rub all surfaces of hands and wrists.
- Rub fingertips and thumbs.
- Hands must remain moist for at least 15 seconds.
- Rub until hands are completely dry.
Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing
When you cough and sneeze, germs and diseases spread through the air. Germs can travel up to one meter or further if you do not cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
You can prevent spreading your germs to other people or onto surfaces around you –
- Keep tissues handy and use a clean one to cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze.
- Do not reuse tissues. After use, discard it in a trash container immediately.
- Clean your hands immediately with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- If you do not have a clean tissue available, turn away from other people and cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm and not your hand. If you do cough or sneeze into your hand, clean immediately before touching anything.
More things to do
You can also help prevent you and your family from getting an infection or spreading an infection if you:
- get immunized
- don’t share personal items such as toothbrushes and razors
- stay home when you’re sick
- practice safe sex
IPC for health professionals
In health care settings, IPC actions help to protect vulnerable people from acquiring health-care associated infections.
Below are some resources for general infection prevention and control (IPC) from provincial, national and international organizations and associations.
IPC Standards –
IPC environmental cleaning and IPC infrastructure
The provincial, national and international resources below contain information related to IPC principles for environmental cleaning and infrastructure during the construction, renovation, and maintenance of health care facilities. They focus on health care settings, community settings or both.
IPC environmental cleaning resources
- Infection prevention and control (IPC) guidelines for principles of Environmental cleaning and disinfection (PDF, 143 KB) Alberta Health Services
- Routine practices and additional precautions assessment and educational tools – Government of Canada
- Best Practices for Environmental Cleaning for Prevention and Control of Infections In All Health Care Settings, 3rd edition, (PDF, 3.4 MB) Public Health Ontario
- Infection prevention and control for clinical office practice (PDF, 3.3 MB) Ontario Public Health
- British Columbia best practices for environmental cleaning for prevention and control of infections in all healthcare settings and programs (PDF, 1.9 MB)
- Environmental Cleaning Toolkit Public Health Ontario
- Environmental Infection Control Guidelines Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Environmental hygiene in healthcare Government of South Australia Health
IPC infrastructure resources
Canadian Standards Association (CSA) has resources for purchase that address IPC considerations in physical infrastructure.
For examples of IPC infrastructure resources in international jurisdictions, read the United Kingdom Department of Health’s Infection Control in the Built Environment (PDF, 3.8 MB)