Preventing osteomyelitis

It is not always possible to prevent osteomyelitis, but there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing the condition.

Avoiding infection

You can reduce your chances of getting an infection from an injury by ensuring that wounds are cleaned thoroughly. Running them under a tap for a few minutes should help. Afterwards cover the wound with sterile gauze or a clean cloth.

If an injury is severe, you should visit your nearest hospital for treatment.

Checking any wounds regularly for signs of infection can help to get an early diagnosis if osteomyelitis does develop.

Improving your health

You may be at a particularly high risk of osteomyelitis if you have a weakened immune system or poor circulation.

Taking steps to improve your general health can reduce your risk of osteomyelitis.

Stop smoking

Smoking cigarettes can clog your arteries and increase your blood pressure, both of which are bad for your circulation. It can also weaken your immune system.

If you smoke, it is strongly recommended you quit as soon as possible. The NHS Smokefree website can provide support and advice. Your GP will also be able to recommend and prescribe medication that can help you give up.

Read more about stopping smoking.

Healthy diet

High fat foods can cause a build-up of fatty deposits in your arteries, and being overweight can lead to high blood pressure.

To improve your circulation, a low-fat high-fibre diet is recommended, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) and wholegrains.

Eating a healthy diet can also help boost your immune system.

Read more about healthy eating.

Managing your weight

If you are overweight or obese, try to lose weight and then maintain a healthy weight by using a combination of a calorie-controlled diet and regular exercise. Once you have achieved a healthy weight it will help keep your blood pressure at a normal level, which will help improve your circulation.

You can use the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to check whether you are a healthy weight for your sex and height.

Read more about losing weight and obesity treatment.


If you drink alcohol, don’t exceed the recommended daily limits. These are:

  • three to four units a day for men
  • two to three units a day for women

A unit of alcohol is roughly half a pint of normal-strength beer, a small glass of wine or a single measure (25ml) of spirits. Regularly exceeding the recommended alcohol limits will raise both your blood pressure and cholesterol level, which will make your circulation worse.

Contact your GP if you are finding it difficult to moderate your drinking. Counselling services and medication can help you reduce your alcohol intake.

Read more about drinking and alcohol and treatment for alcohol misuse.

Regular exercise 

Regular exercise will lower your blood pressure, make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient and can help boost a weak immune system.

For most people, 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week is recommended. However, if your overall health is poor, it may be necessary for you to exercise using a programme tailored specifically to your current needs and fitness level. Your GP will be able to advise you about the most suitable level of exercise for you.

If you find it difficult to achieve 150 minutes of exercise a week, start at a level you feel comfortable with. For example, you could do five to 10 minutes of light exercise a day before gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your activity as your fitness starts to improve.

Read more about health and fitness and getting started exercising.

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