Published on in Health Tip of the Week
Visiting a child in the hospital can lift everybody’s spirits. But if you’re feeling under the weather or you’ve been around someone who is sick, a hospital visit can have serious consequences.
Children who are hospitalized are especially vulnerable to infection. They can’t fight off viruses the way healthy people can. They can get sicker than they already are and suffer serious health complications. So, while your runny nose may be a mere annoyance to you, it can be life-threatening to a hospitalized child.
Help us keep our patients safe and healthy, every day
We are extremely serious about helping our patients get better so they can return home as soon as possible. At CHOP, we ask everyone — this includes siblings of patients, staff, volunteers, etc. — to stay home when they are sick. Parents can remain at the bedside if needed, though we highly encourage them to head home to recover and then return.
Around 15% of hospitalized patients who became sick with a viral infection had a visit from a sick visitor in the days before they became ill. That’s why year-round we screen all visitors at our Welcome Desks and turn away those with symptoms of a viral infection or those who have been exposed to someone with a communicable disease.
We know this may feel extremely frustrating if you made the journey to visit a sick loved one, which is why we ask you (and anyone who will accompany you to a visit) to check your health before leaving home so you don’t unintentionally pass along an illness to one of our patients.
Give yourself a health check
Before planning a hospital visit, give yourself and anyone who will accompany you a onceover for any of the following:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sneezing or coughing
- Sore throat
- Recent exposure to someone with a communicable disease, such as chickenpox, pertussis or tuberculosis
If you have any of these symptoms or have been exposed to someone who is ill, postpone your trip until 48 hours after your symptoms are gone and you are no longer infectious.
But what about allergies?
Seasonal allergies can cause symptoms similar to a cold, but they can also mask a viral infection. At CHOP, we always err on the side of caution to keep patients safe. For that reason, please postpone your visit until your allergies have cleared up.
Other ways to help besides visiting
A visit is often the first thing that comes to mind when a child you care about is in the hospital, but there are other ways to show your support. Ask the parent or caregiver, “What’s the most helpful thing I can do for you right now?”
For example, you can offer to:
- Drive the family’s other children to and from activities.
- Cook a meal.
- Take out the trash.
- Walk the dog.
- Do yardwork.
Here are some more ways to brighten the child’s day without being bedside:
- Skype or Facetime with the child.
- Write a letter, send a card, or mail a package.
- Send an e-card, which we will print and deliver.
- Order a gift from our online gift shop.
Parents and siblings
It can be especially hard to stay home when your own child is in the hospital, but it’s the right decision to make when you, as a primary caregiver, are sick. The risk of infecting your child is too great. Also, you need to get healthy so you can take care of your child. The team at CHOP will keep a close eye on your child. You can call in for updates, and we can use Facetime or Skype with you. Your child’s care team will work with you to come up with a plan to keep you up to date on your child’s care when you aren’t in the hospital with them.
If siblings are sick, please arrange for them to stay with a caregiver while you are at CHOP. If no caregiver is available, please stay home with them until they have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours. Remember, your child is in good hands here at CHOP. Let your child’s care team know if this is the case so that we can be certain to set up ways to communicate with you.
Talking with friends and family
As a parent or caregiver of a hospitalized child, it can sometimes feel uncomfortable telling friends and family not to visit your child when they have signs of illness. Emphasize that CHOP strictly forbids visits from anyone with a viral infection or who has been exposed to a contagious disease. This is for the safety of all patients as well as our staff and other visitors.
Putting patients first
If you arrive for a visit feeling fine, but a staff member detects signs of a viral infection during the health screening, you will be asked to reschedule your visit. We understand this is disappointing. Please remember that it is necessary to keep the child you care about — and all of our patients — safe from infectious illness.
Thank you for helping us provide a safe and germ-free environment at CHOP.
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