Accidental needle stick injury in community settings

A needle stick injury is rare in the community setting and usually arises from the accidental puncturing of the skin by a needle left in places such as parks, playgrounds, laneways, or public toilets. When a person experiences a needle stick injury, there may be anxiety and distress. This is a natural response when thoughts of potential infection with blood borne viruses (BBVs) such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and hepatitis C occur. The risk of BBV transmission by accidental needle stick injury in community settings however is very low.


  • As soon as possible, wash the area around the puncture for at least 30 seconds, using soap and warm water. Bottled water can also be used if no hand washing facilities are available.
  • Do not squeeze or rub the area around the puncture.
  • Cover the site with a band aid or similar dressing.
  • Seek medical advice immediately.
  • If possible, put the needle in a rigid-walled, puncture resistant container and seal or securely close the container. This container can then be placed into an ordinary rubbish bin.

Remember - the risk of catching a serious infection as a result of an accidental needle stick injury is very low, because these viruses do not survive for long outside of the body.

Treatment, reassurance, counselling and advice can be obtained from:

  • local GP
  • hospital emergency department.

In many cases, only treatment of the needle injury site and counselling is needed. Counselling is an essential part of this support and is useful in reducing potential stress and anxiety. How much counselling each person requires will depend on the individual and will consider their knowledge of disease transmission, risk and level of anxiety. All treatment and enquiries are dealt with confidentially.

Other resources

Help and assistance

Get qualified health advice 24/7 for the cost of a local call. 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84).

If there are any concerns, contact the local council or the Queensland Clean Needle Helpline (1800 NEEDLE/1800 633 353).