Isolation precautions create barriers between people and germs. These types of precautions help prevent the spread of germs in the hospital.
Anybody who visits a hospital patient who has an isolation sign outside their door should stop at the nurses' station before entering the patient's room. The number of visitors and staff who enter the patient's room may be limited.
Different types of isolation precautions protect against different types of germs.
You should follow standard precautions with all patients.
When you are close to, or are handling, blood, bodily fluid, bodily tissues, mucous membranes, or areas of open skin, you must use personal protective equipment (PPE). Depending on the anticipated exposure, types of PPE required include:
It is also important to properly clean up afterward.
Transmission-based precautions are extra steps to follow for illnesses that are caused by certain germs. Transmission-based precautions are followed in addition to standard precautions. Some infections require more than one type of transmission-based precaution.
Follow transmission-based precautions when an illness is first suspected. Stop taking these precautions only when that illness has been treated or ruled-out and the room has been cleaned.
Patients should stay in their rooms as much as possible while these precautions are in place. They may need to wear masks when they leave their rooms.
Airborne precautions may be needed for germs that are so small they can float in the air and travel long distances.
Contact precautions may be needed for germs that are spread by touching.
Droplet precautions are used to prevent contact with mucus and other secretions from the nose and sinuses, throat, airways, and lungs.
Siegel JD, Rhinehart E, Jackson M, Chiarello L, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. 2007 Guideline for isolation precautions: preventing transmission of infectious agents in healthcare settings. http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/pdf/isolation/isolation2007.pdf. Accessed February 20, 2014.
Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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