We all know the ideal environment for preparing IV infusions or tube feeds: a separate room with no distractions that can be kept scrupulously clean, to keep the infusion or feed as clean and sterile as possible.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly have any extra rooms in my house, and with a three-year-old running around, there is never any place in the house that is clean and distraction-free.
So we make do.
I’ve recently discovered two things that have helped me enormously to improve the cleanliness and sterility of my preparation area. Both are simple and inexpensive.
If you’ve ever looked through a catalog of medical supplies or watched an episode of a medical drama on TV, you have probably seen metal preparation trays designed specifically for keeping surgical supplies and other medical equipment clean and sterile. A friend of mine took this idea and simplified it from an $80 stainless steel medical tray to a $15 stainless steel baking sheet or cookie tray. If you really need to keep it cheap, you can purchase a standard aluminum baking sheet at a dollar store for just $2. If you can afford stainless steel, I highly recommend it over aluminum for both durability and safety. Make sure you don’t pick a tray with a nonstick finish, as this can chip off or be eroded by cleaning materials.
I prefer to use the largest size tray I am able to find, which is about 12 inches by 18 inches. Really large half sheets and full sheets typically for commercial use are also available if you need more space. I use one with edges to keep everything on the tray.
Tray with items out of their packages ready to prepare the infusion
Before using the tray, I wipe it down with alcohol (see the next section for more information). Once it is dry, I simply place it on any firm surface, such as a counter or table, to prepare infusions. As I prepare an infusion, I place the bag on the tray, along with any additives and tubing removed from their packages. Keep supplies that need to remain sterile in their packages. I keep supplies that are still in their packages in a separate caddy and only place the clean contents of packages onto the tray.
Tray on table and to the left is a caddy where I keep supplies in packages
If you use a tray to prepare a tube feeding, there likely will be lots of spills. Simply clean the tray with soap and water and allow to air dry before the next use.
This method has been very successful for me, especially since I can never guarantee the cleanliness of any surface with a three-year-old in the house. I store it up high out of her reach and it remains nice and clean between uses.
Large Isopropyl Alcohol Wipes
I’m one of those people who prefers alcohol as an antiseptic to pretty much everything else on the market. Antibacterial wipes are great, but I worry that using them will increase bacterial resistance in the future. Alcohol is a good old-fashioned killing machine.
I once heard a description by a long-time TPN (IV nutrition) user of how she cleaned her preparation surface. She literally poured out a bunch of isopropyl alcohol onto her surface and then waited until it dried. Now that is great if you can think ahead long enough to pour it out and let it dry before you need to make your infusion. I simply don’t have that kind of brain power anymore, and so I wanted something simpler.
I recently found 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes at the drug store. I’m not talking about the little tiny prep pad squares. These ones are 5 inches by 7 inches. They are marketed primarily as a first aid product, to wipe cuts and scrapes. They come in a pop-up tub just like antibacterial wipes. They are super simple—a cloth saturated with purified water and alcohol (70%)—with no added ingredients or chemicals.
I have to say, these things are awesome! They are perfectly saturated for wiping down a tray or other preparation surface. The surface dries in about a minute. They cost about $4 for a container, which is about 10 cents a wipe, about the same as antibacterial disinfecting wipes. Both CVS and Walgreens make a generic version that works great and costs less. You can also order them online by the case.
The only issue with these is you need to make sure the surface you are cleaning can stand up to alcohol. If you use a stainless steel tray as discussed above, you will have no issues. Any other surface should be spot-tested to ensure it will not be damaged by alcohol.
Keep it Clean!
Having a clean area to prepare IV infusions or tube feedings is essential but challenging, especially when you have active young children. I really hope the combination of using a tray and wiping down your preparation area with large alcohol wipes makes things a little easier and a little cleaner!