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How to be a good hospital visitor

A girl lies in a hospital bed sleeping and cuddling a teddy bear.

Nov. 25, 2018—Visiting someone you care about during a hospital stay is good medicine. Your visit says "I care" and can provide important support. While you're there, you want to be sure you don't spread infections, especially during flu season. 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 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 is for everyone—not just the hospital staff. Wash or sanitize your hands when entering and leaving your family member or friend's room. You'll avoid bringing in germs and carrying them out.

3. Take cover. Cover your cough or sneeze with your sleeve or a tissue. 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 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 one.

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

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If someone in your family comes down with the flu, a separate sickroom can keep germs from spreading. Here's how to set one up—and what to have on hand.

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