Don’t visit patients in the hospital when you’re sick

Man suffering from the flu
Sybil Millar
Written by Sybil Millar

When you have a friend or family member in the hospital, you probably want to visit them as much as possible. But if you’re sick, your visits may end up doing more harm than good.

“Patients in the hospital are vulnerable and are at higher risk of developing more severe illness from the flu, or even a simple cold. If you have a contagious illness, it’s important you don’t visit people in the hospital until you’ve fully recovered,” says Dr. Jerome Leis, Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Sunnybrook.

Here are three reasons you shouldn’t visit patients in the hospital when you’re sick:

1. You can pass your illness on to others

There are posters around the hospital and a recording on the main phone line, asking visitors not to come to Sunnybrook if they’re sick.

Before you visit someone in the hospital, be honest with yourself about your own health: it’s easy to dismiss a minor cough or runny nose as an allergy, aspiration or unrelated non-infectious issue.

However, these can be signs of a contagious infection, which can spread quickly to other patients and staff. The resulting outbreak can have a huge impact not just on other patients, but also on the hospital’s ability to function efficiently.

2. It creates a domino effect

When patients get an infectious illness while in the hospital, it creates a domino effect.

Their hospital stay becomes longer and they need more care, leading to delays in care for other patients. For example, surgeries can be delayed or even cancelled, and patients can wait longer in the Emergency Department for a bed.

“This is one of the reasons we often see a spike in our occupancy rates in the winter months. Patients are getting illnesses like the flu, even when that isn’t the reason they were originally admitted to our hospital, causing them to stay longer,” says Dr. Leis.

3. Patients need more time and help to recover

When a patient catches the flu while in the hospital, it can cause additional complications and delays in their recovery.

“Sometimes, it can mean the difference between a patient being able to go home or needing rehabilitation and additional support, because the flu they caught in hospital caused them to become even weaker,” says Dr. Leis.

About the author

Sybil Millar

Sybil Millar

Sybil Millar is the Communications Advisor for Infection Prevention and Control, Infectious Diseases, the Ross Tilley Burn Centre and the Critical Care program at Sunnybrook.

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