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Isolation: Special Airborne Precautions

The above is an example of a Special 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 a suspected or confirmed infection that could spread through the air to other patients in the hospital. To lower the risk of spreading the infection, we must limit your child’s contact with other patients.  

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

Special 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.
  • Please let staff know that you are in isolation. A staff member will 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 is 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.” 

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. Do not go in any area where other patients and families are present.
  • Your child will wear a gray armband. A “Special 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 members must wear an N95 mask or a powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) when entering the patient room. These must be removed after leaving the room.
  • If your child has tuberculosis (TB) or might have it, you must wear an N95 facemask when entering the patient room.
  • During transport within the hospital, your child must wear an N95 facemask and a clean gown, and staff must wear an N95 facemask or PAPR.
  • 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 room, the uneaten portion 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, your child must wear an N95 facemask and a clean gown, and staff must wear an N95 facemask or PAPR.

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 special airborne precautions, your child must stay in their room and avoid other patients and families.


Reviewed: September 2022