Science (and logic) would suggest you go to the hospital to feel better--not get sicker. But 5% of all inpatients acquire an infection of some kind during their stay, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. And those who do are far more likely to end up back in hospital within a year, reports the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

If costly hospital stays, inconvenience, and potentially serious health problems aren't enough to turn you into a more conscientious (and paranoid) patient, consider this:

Hospital-acquired infections kill 31,000 patients every year. If you do find yourself at the ER, follow these guidelines for making sure you don't get any sicker than you already are.

14 Worst Hospital Mistakes To Avoid

Check your hospital's history. Ask your doctor about your hospital's infection rates. If the infection rate is more than three in 1,000 days, look for another hospital.

Demand clean hands. You should get over the idea that it's rude to ask people to wash their hands before touching you. Sanitary gel dispensers should be available in your room or just outside. It's still a good idea to keep your own bottle handy; if you're not sure your nurse--or your visitor--has made use of the hospital's supply, offer them yours.

Call for housekeeping. Typically, hospital rooms are washed down between patients. But if you're there for a few days, ask that frequently touched areas (like doorknobs and bathroom handles) be disinfected.

Don't touch elevator buttons. To stay safe, use a tissue when handling publicly pawed buttons and knobs.

10 Worst Germ Hot Spots

Beware your doctor's tie. According to a 2004 study, 20 out of 40 doctors' ties were found to be contaminated with dangerous bacteria. Chances are, you won't come into direct contact with your doc's neckpiece, but if he touches it, and then hands you a pen to sign something, you could unwittingly catch whatever he's carrying anyway.