Children at NIH

Preventing Infections in the Hospital

Even colds can be dangerous for our patients

A cold may not be a big deal for a healthy person, but trivial in a healthy person, but for patients whose immune systems are weakened by disease or treatment, even a cold can be life threatening. Some symptoms suggest infection: cough, diarrhea, eye drainage, fever, rash, runny nose, sore throat, or vomiting. If you or any of the people visiting with you have these symptoms, an Infection Control Consultant will assess the need for isolation precautions.

Tell us if you have recently been exposed to a someone with a cold or infectious disease

Recent exposure to infections such as chickenpox, head lice, whooping cough (pertussis), influenza, strep throat, or tuberculosis, is cause for concern. Patients with weak immune systems are vulnerable to these infections. Since some infections can be spread even before you show symptoms, please tell your team if you have been around someone with an infection. If you've been exposed, our staff will try to make sure that the infection has not spread.

Tell us if you've been recently vaccinated

Vaccines prevent the spread of infection, but, for a short time after certain types of vaccination, there is a small chance that the infection could be spread. To make sure that infections cannot be spread we will ask whether you've had vaccinations within the last six weeks.

"Standard Precautions": How we prevent infections from spreading

If an infection is suspected or found, we work closely with hospital staff, patients, and family members. "Standard Precautions"—meaning handwashing and wearing safety items (such as gloves)—are a big part of preventing the spread of infections in the hospital. We follow Standard Precautions strictly and at all times. If an infection is suspected, we work closely with hospital staff, patients and family members.

"Isolation Precautions"

Depending on the infection, "isolation precautions" may be used along with Standard Precautions to prevent the infection from spreading to others. When the infection is cured or can no longer be spread, isolation is stopped and only Standard Precautions are used.

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This page last updated on 05/03/2024

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