Transmission-Based Precautions: Droplet

Boy in hospital bed coughing into tissue. Healthcare provider standing beside bed wearing face shield, mask and gloves.Transmission-based precautions help prevent the spread of certain infections. Droplet precautions are one type of transmission-based precaution. Always use droplet precautions in addition to standard precautions.

When to use droplet precautions

Some germs are carried in moist droplets. These drops travel a short distance (about 3 feet) when an infected person coughs, talks, or sneezes. The drops also contaminate objects and surfaces they fall on. Use droplet precautions with patients known or suspected to have certain infections as outlined by your facility, including:

  • Pertussis (whooping cough)

  • Neisseria meningitidis

  • Haemophilus influenza type B

  • Influenza

  • Scarlet fever

  • Mumps

  • Rubella (German measles)

How to use droplet precautions

The patient should be placed in a private room with a private bathroom. If this can’t be done, check with your facility’s infection control department. Also:

  • Wear a mask when within 3 feet of the patient. Or you may wear a mask at all times when in the patient’s room. Follow your facility’s guidelines.

  • Keep other patients at least 3 feet away from the infected patient.

  • Have family members and other visitors wear masks and other appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

  • Transport the patient only when you must. Have the patient wear a surgical mask. Alert the receiving department.

Preventing contamination

  • Remove your gloves and other PPE before leaving the room. Wash your hands well before leaving.

  • The infected patient should have his or her own patient care equipment (including stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, and commode). If an item must be shared, clean it with disinfectant between patients.

  • If you touch an object in the room with your gloves, change them before providing care to any patient.

  • Don't touch your mouth, nose, or eyes during patient care.