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Transmission-Based Precautions: Airborne

Transmission-based precautions help prevent the spread of certain infections. Airborne precautions are one type of transmission-based precaution. Always use airborne precautions in addition to standard precautions.

When to use airborne precautions

Some germs can float through the air on tiny particles. They can stay in the air for a long time and travel long distances. Use airborne precautions with patients known or suspected to be infected with any of the following:

  • Active tuberculosis (TB)

  • Measles

  • Varicella (chickenpox) or wherever a patient has a vesicular rash of unknown origin

  • Ebola

  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)

  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19)

How to use airborne precautions

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

  • Wear approved respiratory protection when in the patient’s room if the patient is suspected of having active tuberculosis, or if you are not immune to measles or chickenpox and must care for an infected patient.

  • Put on respiratory protection (NIOSH-approved N95 or higher respirator) before entering a restricted room. Take it off only after leaving the room. Visitors must also wear protection.

  • If there is the possibility of respiratory fluids being sprayed, wear a gown, gloves, and goggles or face shield.

  • Perform meticulous hand hygiene before and after coming into contact with the patient, the patient's respiratory secretions or body fluids, or contaminated items.

  • Change your facemask if it becomes soiled. Dispose of it in a plastic bag and then in the trash.

  • Keep the room’s doors and windows closed at all times.

  • Allow only essential people (as defined by your facility) to enter the room.

  • Teach the patient to cough and sneeze into tissues.

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

Healthcare provider putting mask over nose and mouth.
Fit-check your respirator mask each time you wear it to be sure that air leaks don't expose you to infection.

Protecting yourself with a respirator

  • Wear the respirator approved by your facility.

  • Ask whether the respirator needs to be fit-tested before you first wear it. This test makes sure that the respirator mask fits right.

  • Fit check the respirator every time you put it on. You will be shown how to do a fit check.

  • Put the respirator on before entering a restricted room. Take it off only after leaving the room.

  • Each respirator should be used by one person only and should not be shared.

Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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