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Isolation precautions

Definition

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.

Standard Precautions

Follow standard precautions with all patients.

When you are close to or 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

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 following 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 a mask 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.

References

Calfee DP. Prevention and control of health care-associated infections. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 282.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Isolation precautions: summary of recommendations. www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/pdf/guidelines/isolation-guidelines.pdf. Updated October 31, 2017. Accessed February 21, 2018.

Huskins WC, Sammons JS, Coffin SE. Health care-associated infections. In: Cherry JD, Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL, Steinbach WJ, Hotez PJ, eds. Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 243.

Maki, DG, Tsigrelis C. Nosocomial infection in the intensive care unit. In: Parillo JE, Dellinger RP, eds. Critical Care Medicine: Principles of Diagnosis and Management in the Adult. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 50.


Review Date: 11/20/2017
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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