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Isolation: Airborne Precautions

Airborne precautions

The above is an example of the Airborne Precautions sign showing the safety equipment needed to enter the room and proper disposal when leaving the room.

The doctor has placed your child in isolation because of an infection that could spread to other patients. To lower the risk of spreading the infection, we must limit your child’s contact with others when in the hospital and outpatient areas. In order to prevent the spread of the infection and the safety of all patients, an Airborne Precautions sign will be placed on your inpatient door or the clinic room door in the outpatient area. 

Some types of germs (viruses and bacteria) can be spread through the air. Airborne germs can travel through the air and be inhaled.  

Airborne precautions require special ventilation. Air from the room must be sent outside to lessen the risk to others. This may also be called negative-pressure isolation.   

Getting to the hospital 

You will need your own private transport to and from the hospital. Do not use the St. Jude shuttle buses. If you do not have your own vehicle in Memphis, St. Jude will arrange a shuttle or taxi for you. Call 901-595-4501 to arrange your housing and transport needs.   

Arriving at the hospital 

  • If you drove your car, park in any patient parking space near Chili’s Care Center. 
  • Enter through the Isolation Entrance. This entry is located to the left of Chili’s Care Center’s rotating entrance. 
  • As soon as you enter, please let staff know that you are in isolation. A staff member will provide you and your child with a mask, allow you to use hand sanitizer, and walk with you to your appointment. 

Clean hands prevent spread of infection 

The most important way to prevent the spread of infection is to clean your hands often. This means either washing well with soap and water or using alcohol gel.  

For some infections, soap and water are the only way to remove certain germs. If your child has this type of infection, you might see a sign on the door that reads, “Cleaning hands with water and soap is required.”  Unless this is on the door, you can use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

Your child’s outpatient visit 

If your child is an outpatient, you and your child will stay in an isolation room. Many services you need will come to that room.  

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): You and your child may be asked to put on PPE if you go to other rooms for tests. PPE includes gowns, gloves, and face masks. 
  • Parents, caregivers, family members, and the patient must stay in the room. No visits to common areas, waiting rooms, or public events.  
  • Your child will wear a red armband. An “Airborne Precautions” sign will be on the door. The sign will tell people what type of PPE to wear when in your child’s room. 
  • Staff and visitors must wear gowns, gloves, and masks when entering the room. Gowns and gloves are outside the room but are thrown away inside the room.  
  • Your child will wear a mask and a clean gown.  
  • Clean hands before entering and after leaving the isolation room. Also, clean hands before and after using gowns, masks, and gloves.  

Your child’s inpatient stay

  • Your child must stay in the room. No visits to common areas, waiting rooms, or public events.
  • You and your family should limit your trips to other parts of the hospital to avoid spreading your child’s infection. Never enter other patient rooms or have close contact with other patients or their parents.
  • Wear gloves when touching soiled items in your child’s room. This includes emptying bedpans, helping the patient to the toilet, handling urine or stool, or changing diapers. Wash your hands after removing gloves.
  • Do not put food or drinks from your child’s room into refrigerators on the inpatient unit.
  • If you bring food from outside the hospital, place it in the Family Lounge refrigerator first. Then, you can take portions to your child’s room. Once food enters a patient’s room, the uneaten part must be thrown away. It must not be placed back in the refrigerator.
  • Please have hospital room service deliver your child’s food when possible. This will reduce the risk of infection. Food from room service comes on throwaway trays. Flush leftover liquids down the toilet.
  • Limit the number of personal items in the room, so that staff can clean surfaces well.
  • Bring only solid-surface toys into the isolation room. They must be cleaned before they leave the room.
  • Place clothes in a personal belonging bag before removing them from the room. If possible, wash them in hot water with bleach.
  • Anyone who is not a parent (caregiver) must wear the PPE that is posted on the door. Because parents are in close contact with the child for extended periods, they do not have to wear PPE while in the patient’s room. But, sometimes parents must wear facemasks in the patient’s room for their own protection. For some types of isolation, visitors and siblings are not allowed in the patient room.
  • During transport within the hospital, the patient must wear a clean gown. Staff must wear gloves and a gown to transport the child to other locations in the hospital. Parents and caregivers must wear gloves and a gown only if they carry the patient during hospital transport.

Your child's stay in housing

Sometimes, you can stay in the same St. Jude housing if your child is on isolation precautions. Other times, you may need to move to lower the risk of spreading infection.  

  • You and your child will be in a room with a door that opens to the outside, if possible. This helps lower the risk of infection if your child sneezes or coughs, because these droplet or airborne infections spread through the air. If an outside room is not available, you and your child will stay in a room or suite at Tri Delta Place or an apartment at Target House. 
  • Your child must stay in the room.  
  • Avoid common areas. You and other family members may leave your St. Jude room if needed. But your child must not go to any common areas. If your child does go into common areas during restrictive isolation, we may ask you to leave St. Jude housing and stay somewhere else. 
  • Do not touch surfaces. When going to and from the room, your child should not touch any surfaces, including walls or counters.  
  • Do not ride in an elevator with other patients or families. 
  • Do not ride in vehicles with other patients or families.   

Key Points

  • Isolation precautions help lower the risk of spreading infection. 
  • When on airborne precautions, your child must stay in their room and avoid other patients and families. 

Reviewed: September 2022