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How to be a good hospital visitor

A patient in a hospital bed with a doctor and visitors around him.

Nov. 30, 2019—Visiting someone you care about during a hospital stay is good medicine. Your visit says "I care" and can provide important support.

But you want to be sure you don't spread infections during your visit. So follow these six safeguards from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology:

1. Stay home if you're sick. Call or send a card instead of visiting if you've had any of these symptoms within the past three days:

  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • A fever or feeling feverish.
  • An uncontrolled cough.
  • A rash.

2. Scrub away germs. The soap and sanitizer in patient rooms are for everyone—not just the hospital staff. Wash or sanitize your hands when entering and leaving the room. You'll avoid bringing in germs and carrying them out.

3. Take cover. Cover your cough or sneeze with your sleeve. And don't sit on patient beds or handle equipment.

4. Follow special precautions. If the person you're visiting is on "isolation precautions," check with a nurse before entering the room to see what steps to take, such as wearing a mask.

5. Get a flu shot. It's the best protection against getting the flu and spreading it. The flu can cause serious complications like pneumonia and can even be deadly. And the flu vaccine is effective as long as the flu virus is circulating, which can be as late as May. Everybody 6 months and older needs the vaccine each year.

6. Don't contribute to clutter. Try to only bring essential personal items to the person you're visiting. You'll make the crucial job of cleaning hospital rooms easier.

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