Go when you’re sick
Most patients have a weakened immune system, cannot fight off bacteria like they normally can, and are more susceptible to infection. If you have a cough, cold, flu, or fever, it’s best hospital etiquette to forget that hospital visit and check in on your loved ones with a phone call (and try these natural cold remedies). “Your bacteria and viruses can also be transferred to employees who are responsible for taking care of your loved ones and other patients,” says Rebecca Lee, registered nurse and founder of the natural health resource, remediesforme.com. Lee advises not to take children under 13 to visit a patient because their immune systems aren’t as strong as adults, making them susceptible to germs from sick and contagious patients. Anna Renault, member of the Patient & Family Advisory Council for Quality and Safety, advises against entering or leaving a patient’s room without washing your hands or using the hand sanitizer. “You cannot see the germs you bring in or take out of the room,” she warns.
Bring fresh flowers, food, plants or fruits
It’s against hospital etiquette for a guest to bring fresh flowers, food, plants or fruits to a patient without asking first. “Infection control is crucial for patients who are very sick and do not have a strong immune system, such as burn victims, cancer or chemo patients,” explains Lee. “Fresh flowers, plants and fruits can carry fungal spores that can infect sick patients. Call the unit ahead of time to see what is appropriate to bring.” (Check out germ experts tips on boosting immunity.) Unhealthy food is definitely off the table, because many patients need to stick to strict diets. Lee recalls one time family members kept sneaking in Chinese take-out to a diabetic patient. “For days, the doctors could not understand why the patient’s sugar was sky high and their insulin regimen was not adequately controlled,” she says. “This caused a delay in their discharge by a few days, solely due to the outside food. Patient with gastric problems are ordered a strict diet to make sure their bowels are not compromised. If your family member is ordered a specific diet, please do not feed them anything other than what is ordered. I’ve had patients who had to have uncomfortable tubes inserted into their stomachs because their bowels were not ready to handle the regular food they ate.”