Droplet precautions prevent the spread of infectious diseases transmitted by contact of nasal or oral secretions (droplets arising from coughing or sneezing) from the infected patient with the mucous membranes of the susceptible host. This category includes some diseases formerly included in respiratory isolation. The droplets of moisture are heavy and generally fall to the ground within 3′ (1 m); the organisms contained in the droplets don't become airborne or suspended in the air. (See Diseases requiring droplet precautions.)
Effective droplet precautions require a single room (not necessarily a negative-pressure room), and the door doesn't need to be closed. Persons having direct contact with, or who will be within 3′ of the patient, should wear a surgical mask covering the nose and mouth.
When handling infants or young children who require droplet precautions, you may also need to wear gloves and a gown to prevent soiling of clothing with nasal and oral secretions.
Masks • gowns, if necessary • gloves • plastic bags • droplet precautions door card.
Gather any additional supplies, such as a thermometer, stethoscope, and blood pressure cuff.
Preparation of equipment
Keep all droplet precaution supplies outside the patient's room in a cart or anteroom.
  • Place the patient in a single room with private toilet facilities and an anteroom if possible. If necessary, two patients with the same infection may share a room. Explain isolation procedures to the patient and his family.
  • Put a droplet precautions card on the door to notify anyone entering the room.
  • Wash your hands before entering and after leaving the room and during patient care as indicated.
  • Pick up your mask by the top strings, adjust it around your nose and mouth, and tie the strings or adjust the ear loops around your ears for a comfortable fit. If the mask has a flexible metal nose strip, adjust it to fit firmly but comfortably.
  • Instruct the patient to cover his nose and mouth with a facial tissue while coughing or sneezing.
  • Tape an impervious bag to the patient's bedside so that the patient can dispose of facial tissues correctly.
  • Make sure all visitors wear masks when in close proximity with the patient (within 3′) and, if necessary, gowns and gloves.
  • If the patient must leave the room for essential procedures, make sure he wears a surgical mask over his nose and mouth. Notify the receiving department or area of the patient's isolation precautions so that the precautions will be maintained and the patient can be returned to the room promptly.
Special considerations
  • Before removing your mask, remove your gloves (if worn) and wash your hands.
  • Untie the strings and dispose of the mask, handling it by the strings only.
Record the need for droplet precautions on the nursing care plan and as otherwise indicated by your facility. Document initiation and maintenance of the precautions, the patient's tolerance of the procedure, and any patient or family teaching. Also document the date droplet precautions were discontinued.