Isolation Precautions for Adult Patients
What are isolation precautions?
These are safety measures used to lessen the
spread of germs (bacteria, viruses, fungi)
within the hospital. You may be placed in
these precautions if you are thought or
known to have an infection that can be
spread to others in the hospital. You may
also need these if you carry certain types of
germs, even if they are not making you ill.
This is because these germs can cause
serious infections for some patients in the
Who decides if I need to be in isolation
This Health Facts for You is about the rules
at the University of Wisconsin Hospital.
These rules are based on Centers for Disease
Control (CDC) guidelines. The doctor or
nurse caring for you or an infection control
practitioner (ICP) will decide if you need to
be placed in these precautions. You may be
placed in these before there are test results if
you have signs of an illness that is spread
from person to person or if you have had an
illness that could be spread from person to
Will I need to have an isolation sign
posted on the door?
Yes, this sign will be posted on your door so
that health care workers, family, and friends
know what steps they must take to prevent
the spread of germs. This sign does not list
your name and does not list what germ or
infection you have. It only lists the safety
measures that must be taken when people
enter your room.
What are the specific precautions that
may be taken?
Hand Hygiene must be done by all people
when they go in and out of your room. This
means cleaning hands for 15 seconds with
soap and water or alcohol hand gel. Soap
and water should be used when hands look
dirty and when the sign on your door lists
soap and water for cleaning hands rather
than alcohol hand gel.
Contact Precautions are used when an
illness can be spread by touching you or
objects that have touched you. Staff and
visitors will use a gown and gloves when
they enter your room.
Enhanced Contact Precautions are used
when an illness can be spread by touching
you or objects that have touched you and the
germs are hard to kill on hands and surfaces.
Staff and visitors will use a gown and gloves
when they enter your room. Hands are
cleaned with soap and water instead of
alcohol hand gel. This is because these
germs are not killed with alcohol. Soap and
water will be used for hand washing after
caring for you and before leaving the room.
Bleach will be used to clean your room.
Droplet Precautions are used when an
illness is spread in mucus or saliva from the
nose and mouth by coughing, sneezing,
talking, or some procedures. Staff and
visitors will wear a mask in your room. You
may be asked to wear a mask if you must
leave your room. If you can not wear a
mask when outside your room, you should
cover your mouth with a tissue when
coughing or sneezing. You should clean
your hands afterwards.
Airborne Precautions are used when an
illness is spread in the air. You will be in a
room that allows air to flow into it rather
than out of it. This helps to stop the spread
of germs that are in the air. The door must
stay closed for proper air flow. Staff and
visitors will wear a mask called a respirator
in your room. You may be asked to wear a
mask if you must leave your room. If you
can not wear a mask when outside your
room, you should cover your mouth with a
tissue when coughing or sneezing. You
should clean your hands afterwards.
In some cases, more than one of the above
precautions may be used together to prevent
the spread of germs.
How can I help to prevent the spread of
Below are things you can do to help.
Talk with your nurse about what you
need to do to prevent the spread of
Cover your mouth and nose when
sneezing or coughing. If you use a
tissue or your hands, clean your
hands when you are done.
Clean your hands often and
especially after using the restroom,
before eating, before leaving your
room and when returning to your
room. If you need help cleaning
your hands, ask your healthcare
If you are in Contact or Enhanced
o Bathe daily and change into
clean clothing. If you can not
bathe yourself, staff will help
o Put on a clean robe (may use a
second gown worn like a robe)
before leaving your room. Keep
the robe on while outside your
If you are in Droplet or Airborne
Precautions, put on a snugly fitting
mask before leaving your room.
Keep the mask on at all times while
you are outside of your room.
Stay in your room except when you
need to go for a test or procedure.
Avoid contact with other patients.
Can my door be left open?
Your door will need to be closed if you are
in Airborne Precautions. Your door can be
open if you are in any of the other types of
precautions. Your nursing staff will let you
know if your door may be open or should be
shut. If you have any questions, please ask.
Can I leave the room?
When you are in isolation precautions, you
rarely leave your room. You may need to
leave the room for some tests. If so, your
nurse will tell you about the safety measures
you need to take. You may need to wear a
mask or gown depending on the type of
precautions you are in. You will always be
asked to clean your hands with an alcohol
gel or soap and water before leaving your
room. You should not have direct contact
with other patients because you could spread
germs to them. Your nurse will tell you if
you may leave your room and the
precautions that are needed so you don’t
spread germs to other people. Please follow
Are my family and friends allowed to
Friends and family members should not visit
if they have any signs of an illness that can
be spread from person to person. These
signs include a cough, sore throat, fever,
rash, or diarrhea.
In most cases, you can have visitors. They
will have to follow the same precautions as
the health care workers. This means that
they will wear gowns, gloves, and/or masks
when they enter your room just as the health
care workers do. They will also clean their
hands with soap and water or alcohol hand
When can isolation precautions end?
Your doctor or an ICP will decide when
these are no longer needed. Some patients
need to be in isolation precautions during
their entire hospital stay. Even if these end,
hand hygiene must still be done by all
people when they go in and out of your
room. This is to lessen the spread of germs.
What about when I go home?
Your doctor or nurse will tell you if you
need to take any special precautions at
home. Some of the best ways to prevent the
spread of germs are cleaning your hands,
covering your cough with your sleeve or a
tissue, and routine cleaning of surfaces that
are touched often.
If your doctor or nurse or an ICP tell you
that you still need to take special precautions
after you leave the hospital, please tell all
hospital staff this if you return for clinic
visits or more time in the hospital. You may
need to be placed in isolation precautions
again. This is to protect you, staff, and other
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #7190.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 2/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6980.