Those in the hospital are there to heal. However, an alarming number of hospital patients develop infections during their stays.

Known as health care-associated infections (HAI), they can take the form of urinary tract infections, C. dificile or MRSA, among many others. Some can be fatal, and most at the least are debilitating and slow a patient’s recovery time considerably.

What causes HAIs to spread among patients?

The very life-saving procedures that you receive as a patient also may leave you vulnerable to bacteria that enter your body through surgical sites or on the unwashed hands of healthcare workers. Sometimes it’s the equipment itself that exposes patients to HAIs if it’s improperly sterilized between patients.

Hospitals aren’t the only healthcare settings that present risks of infection to their patients. Over the last decade, over 30 outbreaks of viruses like hepatitis C and B have infected patients at long-term care facilities, dialysis centers and outpatient clinics.

But patients can do much to protect themselves from contagion while in a heath care setting. The following tips could save your life, or that of a loved one:

— Communicate clearly with your doctor. Jot down your questions ahead of your appointment or procedure and bring along a friend or family member to advocate for you.

— If you are using an indwelling catheter, ask every day if it can be removed. Catheters are notorious for causing urinary tract infections.

— Prior to any surgical procedure, ask what you need to do to lessen the chance that you will develop an infection. Then, make sure that you follow your physician’s directive.

— Insist that all health care workers, family members and visitors wash their hands before touching you.

— Familiarize yourself with the symptoms and signs of MRSA, which can include fever, drainage from a wound or surgery site, pain or redness.

If you suspect that you contracted HAIs which worsened your condition or otherwise harmed you fue to a provider’s or facility’s negligence, you may want to look into pursuing compensation for your injuries and other damages.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Patient Safety: What You Can Do to Be a Safe Patient,” accessed April 21, 2017