Risk for Infection Nursing Care Plan


Use this nursing diagnosis guide to create your risk for infection nursing care plan individualized to your client.

Infections occur when the natural defense mechanisms of an individual are inadequate to protect them. Microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungus, and other parasites invade susceptible hosts through inevitable injuries and exposures. People have dedicated cells or tissues that deal with the threat of infection. These are known as the immune system.

The human immune system is crucial for survival in a world full of potentially deadly and harmful microbes. The serious impairment of this system can predispose to severe, even life-threatening, infections. Organs and tissues involved in the immune system include the thymus, bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, appendix, tonsils, and Peyer’s patches (in the small intestine). If the patient’s immune system cannot battle the invading microorganism sufficiently, an infection occurs.

Breaks in the integrity of the integument, mucous membranes, soft tissues, or even organs such as the kidneys and lungs can be sites for infections after trauma, invasive procedures, or invasion of pathogens through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.

A common means for infectious diseases to spread is by directly transferring bacteria, viruses, or other germs from one person to another. This can transpire via contact, airborne, sexual contact, or sharing of IV drug paraphernalia. Also, having inadequate resources, lack of knowledge, and being malnourished place an individual at high risk of developing an infection.

SEE ALSO: Nursing Diagnosis Complete List and Guide » 

Infections prolong healing and can result in death if left untreated. Antimicrobials are widely used to treat infections when susceptibility is present. However, no antimicrobial is effective for some organisms, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Another common medical intervention is called immunization. This is also universally used for those who are at high risk for infection. Handwashing is the best way to break the chain of infection.

Specific nursing interventions will depend on the nature and severity of the risk. Patients should be informed and well-educated by nurses on recognizing the signs of infection and how to reduce their risk.

Causes of Infection

Various health problems and conditions can create a favorable environment that would encourage the development of infections. Here are the common causes of infection and factors that place a patient at risk for infection:

  • Inadequate primary defenses (e.g., break in skin integrity, tissue damage).
  • Insufficient knowledge to avoid exposure to pathogens.
  • Compromised host defenses (e.g., cancer, immunosuppression, AIDS, diabetes mellitus).
  • Compromised circulation (e.g., obesity, lymphedema, peripheral vascular disease).
  • A site for organism invasion (e.g., surgery, dialysis, invasive lines, intubation, enteral feedings).
  • Compromised host defenses (e.g., radiation therapy, organ transplant, medication therapy)
  • Contact with contagious agents
  • Increased vulnerability of infant (e.g., HIV-positive mother, lack of normal flora, lack of maternal antibodies).
  • Lack of immunization
  • Multiple sex partners
  • Chronic diseases
  • Rupture of amniotic membranes

Goals and Outcomes

Here are some sample patient goals and expected outcomes for patients at risk for infection.

  • Client will remain free of infection, as evidenced by normal vital signs and absence of signs and symptoms of infection.
  • Client will maintain or restore defenses.
  • Early recognition of infection to allow for prompt treatment.
  • Patient will demonstrate a meticulous hand washing technique.
  • Alleviate or reduce the problems related with the infection.

Nursing Care Plans for Risk for Infection

Diseases, medical conditions, and related nursing care plans for Risk for Infection nursing diagnosis:

Nursing Assessment for Risk for Infection

Assessment is paramount in identifying factors that may precipitate infection. Use the nursing assessment guidelines below to identify your subjective data and objective data for your risk for infection care plan:

1. Assess for the presence, existence, and history of the common causes of infection (listed above).
These factors represent a break in the body’s normal first line of defense and may indicate an infection.

2. Assess for the presence of local infectious processes in the skin or mucous membranes.
Signs and symptoms include localized swelling, localized redness, pain or tenderness, loss of function in the affected area, palpable heat.

3. Monitor and report any signs and symptoms of infection. Signs and symptoms of infection vary according to the body area involved. Assess for the following signs and symptoms:

3.1. Redness, swelling, increased pain, purulent discharge from incisions, injury, and exit sites of tubes (IV tubings), drains, or catheters.
These are the classic signs of infection. Any suspicious drainage should be cultured; antibiotic therapy is determined by pathogens identified.

3.2. Elevated temperature.
Fever is often the first sign of an infection. A temperature of up to 38º C (100.4º F) 48 hours post-op is usually related to surgical stress after 48 hours. A temperature of greater than 37.7º (99.8º F) may indicate infection; a very high temperature accompanied by sweating and chills may indicate septicemia.

3.3. Color of respiratory secretions.
Yellow or yellow-green sputum is indicative of respiratory infection.

3.4. Appearance of urine.
Cloudy, turbid, foul-smelling urine with visible sediment is indicative of urinary tract or bladder infection.

4. Monitor white blood cell (WBC) count.
An increasing WBC count indicates the body’s efforts to combat pathogens. Rates are as follows:

  • Low: below 4,500
  • Normal: 4,500 – 11,000
  • High: more than 11,000
  • Very low WBC count may indicate a severe risk for infection. In older patients, the infection may be present without an increased WBC count. Additionally, WBC differential may show an increase and decrease in certain infections.

5. Assess and monitor nutritional status, weight, history of weight loss, and serum albumin.
Patients with inadequate nutrition may be anergic or unable to muster a cellular immune response to pathogens, making them susceptible to infection.

6. Investigate the use of medications or treatment modalities that may cause immunosuppression.
Antineoplastic agents, corticosteroids, and so on can suppress immune function.

7. Assess immunization status and history.
People with incomplete immunizations may not have sufficient acquired active immunity. You may ask patients during history taking when they were last immunized.

8. Observe and report if an older client has a low-grade fever or new onset of confusion.
Low-grade temperature elevation that appears in older clients must be reported as it could potentially be an infection.

9. Obtain a travel history from clients.
Integrating travel history in assessment can help stem possible outbreaks and help put infectious symptoms in context for the healthcare team.

10. For pregnant clients, assess the intactness of amniotic membranes.
Prolonged rupture of amniotic membranes before delivery puts the mother and neonate at increased risk for infection.

Nursing Interventions for Risk for Infection

These nursing interventions help reduce the risk for infection, including implementing strategies to prevent infection. If the infection cannot be prevented, the goal is to prevent the spread of infection between individuals and treat the underlying infection. Use the nursing interventions below to help you create your nursing care plan for risk for infection:

1. Maintain strict asepsis for dressing changes, wound care, intravenous therapy, and catheter handling.
Aseptic technique decreases the chances of transmitting or spreading pathogens to or between patients. Interrupting the chain of infection (see image above) is an effective way to prevent the spread of infection.


2. Ensure that any articles used are properly disinfected or sterilized before use.
This reduces or eliminates germs.

3. Wash hands or perform hand hygiene before having contact with the patient. Also, impart these duties to the patient and their significant others and know the instances when to perform hand hygiene or “5 moments for hand hygiene”:

1. Before touching a patient.
2. Before clean or aseptic procedure (wound dressing, starting an IV, etc.).
3. After body fluid exposure risk
4. After touching a patient
5. After touching the patient’s surroundings.

Friction and running water effectively remove microorganisms from hands. Washing between procedures reduces the risk of transmitting pathogens from one area of the body to another. Wash hands with antiseptic soap and water for at least 15 seconds, followed by an alcohol-based hand rub. If hands were not in contact with anyone or anything in the room, use an alcohol-based hand rub and rub until dry. Plain soap is good at reducing bacterial counts, but antimicrobial soap is better, and alcohol-based hand rubs are the best.

4. Educate clients and SO (significant other) about appropriate cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilizing items.
Knowledge of ways to reduce or eliminate germs reduces the likelihood of transmission.

5. Encourage intake of protein-rich and calorie-rich foods and encourage a balanced diet.
Proper nutrition and a balanced diet support the immune systems’ responsiveness and enhance the health of all the body’s tissues. Adequate nutrition enables the body to maintain and rebuild tissues and helps keep the immune system functioning well.

SEE ALSO: Infection Control in Nursing »

6. Perform measures to break the chain of infection and prevent infection.
The following methods help break the chain of infection and prevent conditions that may be suitable for microbial growth:

  1. Change dressing and bandages that are soiled or wet.
  2. Assist clients in carrying out appropriate skin and oral hygiene.
  3. Dispose of soiled linens properly.
  4. Ensure all fluid containers are covered or capped.
  5. Avoid talking, coughing, or sneezing over open wounds or sterile fields.
  6. Wear gloves when handling patient secretions.
  7. Instruct clients to perform hand hygiene when handling food or eating.

7. Encourage increased fluid intake unless contraindicated (e.g., heart failure, kidney failure).
Fluids help promote diluted urine, frequent emptying of the bladder, and reducing the stasis of urine. This ultimately reduces the risk of bladder infection or urinary tract infection. Increased fluid intake also helps replace fluid lost during fever and helps thin secretions.

Break the Chain of Infection
Break the chain of infection! Image via: apic.org

8. Encourage coughing and deep breathing exercises; frequent position changes.
Helps reduce the stasis of secretions in the lungs and bronchial tree. When stasis occurs, microbial infection of the respiratory tract occurs and may lead to pneumonia.

9. Recommend the use of soft-bristled toothbrushes and stool softeners to protect mucous membranes.
Hard-bristled toothbrushes can compromise the integrity of the mucous membrane and provide a port of entry for pathogens.

10. Instruct client not to share personal care items (e.g., toothbrush, towels, etc.).
Explain to the client how infections can be transmitted from sharing personal items.

11. Promote nail care by keeping the client and the nurse‘s fingernails short and clean.
Rough edges or hangnails can harbor microorganisms.

12. Limit visitors.
Restricting visitation reduces the transmission of pathogens.

13. Encourage sleep and rest.
Adequate sleep is an essential modulator of immune responses. A lack of sleep can weaken immunity and increased susceptibility to infection. For instance, shorter sleep durations are associated with a rise in suffering from the common cold.

14. Assist client to learn stress-reducing techniques.
Excessive stress predisposes clients to infection.

15. Provide surgical masks to visitors who are coughing and provide the rationale to enforce usage. Instruct visitors to cover mouth and nose (by using the elbows to cover) during coughing or sneezing; use tissues to contain respiratory secretions with immediate disposal to a no-touch receptacle; perform hand hygiene afterward.
Educating visitors on the importance of preventing droplet transmission from themselves to others reduces the risk of infection.

16. Place the patient in protective isolation if the patient is at high risk of infection.
Protective isolation is set when the WBC indicates neutropenia.

17. Initiate specific precautions for suspected agents as determined by CDC protocol.

  • Meningitis: droplet, airborne precautions
  • Rubella: airborne precautions
  • MRSA: contact, droplet precautions
  • COVID-19: droplet, airborne precautions
  • Tuberculosis: airborne precautions.

18. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) properly.

  • Gloves. Wear gloves when providing direct care; perform hand hygiene after properly disposing gloves.
  • Masks. Use masks, goggles, face shields to protect the mucous membranes of your eyes, mouth, and nose during procedures and in direct-care activities (e.g., suctioning secretions) that may generate splashes or sprays of blood, body fluids, secretions, and excretions.
  • Gowns. Wear a gown for direct contact with uncontained secretions or excretions. Remove gown and perform hand hygiene before leaving the patient’s room or cubicle. Never reuse gowns even with the same individual.

19. Teach the importance of avoiding contact with individuals who have infections or colds. Teach the importance of physical distancing.
Other people can spread infections or colds to a susceptible patient (e.g., immunocompromised) through direct contact, contaminated objects, or air currents.

20. Demonstrate and allow return demonstration of all high-risk procedures that the patient and/or SO will do after discharge, such as dressing changes, peripheral or central IV site care, and so on.
Patient and SO need opportunities to master new skills to reduce susceptibility to infection.

21. Teach the patient, family, and caregivers, the purpose and proper technique for maintaining isolation.
Knowledge of isolation can help patients and family members cooperate with specific precautions.

22. If infection occurs, teach the patient to take anti-infectives as prescribed. If taking antibiotics, instruct the patient to take the full course of antibiotics even if symptoms improve or disappear.
Antibiotics work best when a constant blood level is maintained when medications are taken as prescribed. Not completing the prescribed antibiotic regimen can lead to drug resistance in the pathogen and reactivation of symptoms.

Recommended Resources

Recommended nursing diagnosis and nursing care plan books and resources.

Disclosure: Included below are affiliate links from Amazon at no additional cost from you. We may earn a small commission from your purchase. For more information, check out our privacy policy.

Ackley and Ladwig’s Nursing Diagnosis Handbook: An Evidence-Based Guide to Planning Care
We love this book because of its evidence-based approach to nursing interventions. This care plan handbook uses an easy, three-step system to guide you through client assessment, nursing diagnosis, and care planning. Includes step-by-step instructions showing how to implement care and evaluate outcomes, and help you build skills in diagnostic reasoning and critical thinking.

Nursing Care Plans – Nursing Diagnosis & Intervention (10th Edition)
Includes over two hundred care plans that reflect the most recent evidence-based guidelines. New to this edition are ICNP diagnoses, care plans on LGBTQ health issues and on electrolytes and acid-base balance.

NANDA International Nursing Diagnoses: Definitions & Classification, 2021-2023
The definitive guide to nursing diagnoses is reviewed and approved by the NANDA International. In this new version of a pioneering text, all introductory chapters have been rewritten to provide nurses with the essential information they need to comprehend assessment, its relationship to diagnosis and clinical reasoning, and the purpose and application of taxonomic organization at the bedside. A total of 46 new nursing diagnoses and 67 amended nursing diagnostics are presented.

Nurse’s Pocket Guide: Diagnoses, Prioritized Interventions, and Rationales
Quick-reference tool includes all you need to identify the correct diagnoses for efficient patient care planning. The sixteenth edition includes the most recent nursing diagnoses and interventions from NANDA-I 2021-2023 and an alphabetized listing of nursing diagnoses covering more than 400 disorders.

Nursing Diagnosis Manual: Planning, Individualizing, and Documenting Client Care 
Identify interventions to plan, individualize, and document care for more than 800 diseases and disorders. Only in the Nursing Diagnosis Manual will you find for each diagnosis…. subjectively and objectively – sample clinical applications, prioritized action/interventions with rationales – a documentation section, and much more!

All-in-One Nursing Care Planning Resource – E-Book: Medical-Surgical, Pediatric, Maternity, and Psychiatric-Mental Health 
Includes over 100 care plans for medical-surgical, maternity/OB, pediatrics, and psychiatric and mental health. Interprofessional “patient problems” focus familiarizes you with how to speak to patients.

See also

Other recommended site resources for this nursing care plan:

References and Sources

Recommended resources and reading materials for risk for infection nursing diagnosis and care plan:

  1. Allegranzi, B., & Pittet, D. (2009). Role of hand hygiene in healthcare-associated infection preventionJournal of hospital infection73(4), 305-315.
  2. Arrowsmith, V. A., Maunder, J. A., & Taylor, R. (2001). Removal of nail polish and finger rings to prevent surgical infectionCochrane database of systematic reviews, (1).
  3. Berman, A., Snyder, S. J., Kozier, B., Erb, G. L., Levett-Jones, T., Dwyer, T., … & Parker, B. (2014). Kozier & Erb’s Fundamentals of Nursing Australian Edition (Vol. 3). Pearson Higher Education AU.
  4. Guppy, M. P., Mickan, S. M., Del Mar, C. B., Thorning, S., & Rack, A. (2011). Advising patients to increase fluid intake for treating acute respiratory infectionsCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (2).
  5. Group, H. L. (1999). Hand washing: a modest measure—with big effectsBMJ: British Medical Journal318(7185), 686.
  6. Ibarra-Coronado, E. G., Pantaleón-Martínez, A. M., Velazquéz-Moctezuma, J., Prospéro-García, O., Méndez-Díaz, M., Pérez-Tapia, M., … & Morales-Montor, J. (2015). The bidirectional relationship between sleep and immunity against infectionsJournal of immunology research2015.
  7. Ivanov, A. V., Bartosch, B., & Isaguliants, M. G. (2017). Oxidative stress in infection and consequent disease.
  8. Jane Ward, D. (2007). Hand adornment and infection controlBritish journal of nursing16(11), 654-656.
  9. Kong, W., & Agarwal, P. P. (2020). Chest imaging appearance of COVID-19 infection. Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging2(1), e200028.
  10. Laws, T., & Hillman, E. (2015). Infection prevention and control. Pearson Australia.
  11. Pittet, D. (2000). Improving compliance with hand hygiene in hospitals. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology21(6), 381-386.
  12. Price, V. A., Smith, R. A., Douthwaite, S., Thomas, S., Almond, D. S., Miller, A. R., … & Beadsworth, M. B. (2011). General physicians do not take adequate travel historiesJournal of travel medicine18(4), 271-274.
  13. Reime, M. H., Harris, A., Aksnes, J., & Mikkelsen, J. (2008). The most successful method in teaching nursing students infection control–E-learning or lecture?Nurse Education Today28(7), 798-806.
  14. Robson MC, Stenberg BD, Heggers JP. Wound healing alterations caused by infectionClin Plast Surg. 1990;17(3):485-492.
  15. Sax, H., Allegranzi, B., Uckay, I., Larson, E., Boyce, J., & Pittet, D. (2007). ‘My five moments for hand hygiene’: a user-centred design approach to understand, train, monitor and report hand hygiene. Journal of Hospital Infection67(1), 9-21.
  16. Voss, A., & Widmer, A. F. (1997). No time for handwashing!? Handwashing versus alcoholic rub can we afford 100% compliance?. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology18(3), 205-208.
  17. Zimmerman, S., Gruber‐Baldini, A. L., Hebel, J. R., Sloane, P. D., & Magaziner, J. (2002). Nursing home facility risk factors for infection and hospitalization: importance of registered nurse turnover, administration, and social factorsJournal of the American Geriatrics Society50(12), 1987-1995.

Matt Vera, a registered nurse since 2009, leverages his experiences as a former student struggling with complex nursing topics to help aspiring nurses as a full-time writer and editor for Nurseslabs, simplifying the learning process, breaking down complicated subjects, and finding innovative ways to assist students in reaching their full potential as future healthcare providers.

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