Isolation Precautions for Adult Patients
What are isolation precautions?
These are safety measures used to lessen the spread of germs (bacteria, viruses, fungi) within the hospital. You may be placed in these precautions if you are thought or known to have an infection that can be spread to others in the hospital. You may also need these if you carry certain types of germs, even if they are not making you ill. This is because these germs can cause serious infections for some patients in the hospital.
Who decides if I need to be in isolation precautions?
This Health Facts for You is about the rules at the University of Wisconsin Hospital. These rules are based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. The doctor or nurse caring for you or an infection control practitioner (ICP) will decide if you need to be placed in these precautions. You may be placed in these before there are test results if you have signs of an illness that is spread from person to person or if you have had an illness that could be spread from person to person.
Will I need to have an isolation sign posted on the door?
Yes, this sign will be posted on your door so that health care workers, family, and friends know what steps they must take to prevent the spread of germs. This sign does not list your name and does not list what germ or infection you have. It only lists the safety measures that must be taken when people enter your room.
What are the specific precautions that may be taken?
Hand Hygiene must be done by all people when they go in and out of your room. This means cleaning hands for 15 seconds with soap and water or alcohol hand gel. Soap and water should be used when hands look dirty and when the sign on your door lists soap and water for cleaning hands rather than alcohol hand gel.
Added precautions will be taken based on how the illness or germ that you have is spread.
Contact Precautions are used when an illness is spread by touching you or objects that have touched you. Staff and visitors will use a gown and gloves when they enter your room.
Enhanced Contact Precautions are used when an illness is spread by touching you or objects that have touched you and the germs are hard to kill on hands and surfaces. Staff and visitors will use a gown and gloves when they enter your room. Hands are cleaned with soap and water instead of alcohol hand gel. This is because these germs are not killed with alcohol. Soap and water will be used for hand washing after caring for you and before leaving the room. Bleach will be used to clean your room.
Droplet Precautions are used when an illness is spread in mucus or saliva from the nose and mouth by coughing, sneezing, talking, or some procedures. Staff and visitors will wear a mask in your room. You may be asked to wear a mask if you must leave your room. If you can not wear a mask when outside your room, you should cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. You should clean your hands afterwards.
Airborne Precautions are used when an illness is spread in the air. You will be in a room that allows air to flow into it rather than out of it. This helps to stop the spread of germs that are in the air. The door must stay closed for proper air flow. Staff and visitors will wear a mask called a respirator in your room. You may be asked to wear a mask if you must leave your room. If you can not wear a mask when outside your room, you should cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. You should clean your hands afterwards.
How can I help to prevent the spread of germs?
Below are things you can do to help.
- Talk with your nurse about what you need to do to prevent the spread of germs.
- Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. If you use a tissue or your hands, clean your hands when you are done.
- Clean your hands before leaving your room.
- If you are in Contact or Enhanced Contact Precautions,
- Bathe daily and change into clean clothing. If you can not bathe yourself, staff will help you.
- Put on a clean robe (may use a second gown worn like a robe) before leaving your room. Keep the robe on while outside your room.
- If you are in Droplet or Airborne Precautions, put on a snugly fitting mask before leaving your room. Keep the mask on at all times while you are outside of your room.
- Stay in your room except when you need to go for a test or procedure.
- Avoid contact with other patients.
Can my door be left open?
Your door will need to be closed if you are in airborne precautions. Your door can be open if you are in any of the other types of precautions. Your nursing staff will let you know if your door may be open or should be shut. If you have any questions, please ask.
Can I leave the room?
When you are in isolation precautions, you rarely leave your room. You may need to leave the room for some tests. If so, your nurse will tell you about the safety measures you need to take. You may need to wear a mask, gown, and/or gloves based on the type of precautions you are in. You will always be asked to clean your hands with an alcohol gel or soap and water before leaving your room. You should not have direct contact with other patients because you could spread germs to them. Your nurse will tell you if you may leave your room and the precautions that are needed so you don’t spread germs to other people. Please follow these instructions.
Are my family and friends allowed to visit?
Friends and family members should not visit if they have any signs of an illness that can be spread from person to person. These signs include a cough, sore throat, fever, rash, or diarrhea.
In most cases, you can have visitors. They will have to follow the same precautions as the health care workers. This means that they will wear gowns, gloves, and/or masks when they enter your room just as the health care workers do. They will also clean their hands with soap and water or alcohol hand gel.
When can isolation precautions end?
Your doctor or an ICP will decide when these are no longer needed. Some patients need to be in isolation precautions during their entire hospital stay. Even if these end, hand hygiene must still be done by all people when they go in and out of your room. This is to lessen the spread of germs.
What about when I go home?
Your doctor or nurse will tell you if you need to take any special precautions at home. Some of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs are cleaning your hands, covering your cough with your sleeve or a tissue, and routine cleaning of surfaces that are touched often.
If your doctor or nurse or an ICP tell you that you still need to take special precautions after you leave the hospital, please tell all hospital staff this if you return for clinic visits or more time in the hospital. You may need to be placed in isolation precautions again. This is to protect you, staff, and other patients.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #7190.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 10/20/2011
Copyright © 10/10/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6980
Print Health Fact For You