Infections are illnesses that are caused by germs such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Patients in the hospital are already ill. Exposing them to these germs may make it harder for them to recover and go home.
If you are visiting a friend or loved one, you need to take steps to prevent spreading germs.
The best way to stop the spread of germs is to wash your hands often, stay home if you are sick, and to keep your immunizations up to date.
Clean your hands:
Remind family, friends, and health care providers to wash their hands.
To wash your hands:
You may also use alcohol-based hand cleaners (sanitizers).
Staff and visitors should stay home if they feel sick or have a fever. This will help protect everyone in the hospital.
If you think you were exposed to chicken pox, the flu, or other infections, stay home.
Remember, what may seem like just a little cold to you can be a big problem for someone in the hospital who is sick. If you are not sure if it is safe to visit, call your doctor or nurse and ask them about your symptoms before you visit 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.
Isolation precautions create barriers that help prevent the spread of germs in the hospital. They may be needed to protect you or the patient you are visiting.
When a patient is in isolation, visitors may:
Hospital patients who are very old, very young, or very ill are at the greatest risk of harm from illnesses such as colds and the flu.
When you visit a patient in the hospital make sure to keep your hands away from your face. Cough or sneeze into a tissue, or into the crease of your elbow, not into the air.
Infection control. In: Mills JE, ed. Nursing Procedures. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009:chap 2.
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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