Cystic Fibrosis Infection Control

A CF patient can spread germs in several ways:

  •  Direct contact with infected secretions
    • Kissing, shaking hands, patient care
    • Indirect contact with infected secretions
  • Touching an object like toys, drinking glasses, respiratory equipment
    • Droplets of infected secretions
    • Spread via coughing, up to 3 feet away.
Dr. Marilyn Gowen reviewing a patient's chart in the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic.
Dr. Marilyn Gowen reviewing a patient's chart in the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has guidelines to help prevent the spread of infections between patients in and outside of the clinic and hospital. We use these guidelines in our clinic to help keep our patients well, knowing that it is hard to balance the “rules” with real life. These "rules" may have slight variations at different CF centers.

Hand hygiene is the best way to prevent infections

It is very important to use soap and water if your hands are dirty or an alcohol based hand sanitizer to decontaminate your hands. Do not hesitate to ask your health care team to wash their hands.

What can be done to control infections?

  • Respiratory cultures can screen for germs.
  • Keep at least 3 feet away from others with CF to minimize exposure to someone else’s secretions.
  • Knowing your culture results.
  • Get your immunizations, including the influenza vaccine, yearly.
  • Pay attention to hand hygiene; carry alcohol based hand sanitizers and tissues.
  • Bring your own toys to clinic.
  • Do not allow your child to play with the medical equipment, including the gloves, otoscopes, etc.
  • Do not shake hands with other CF families.
  • If you cough anything up, please use a tissue to expel it and place the tissue in the trash can. Avoid spitting. Then wash your hands.

Infection control in clinic

We do our best to get you to an exam room as soon as possible. This is to prevent exposure to other patient’s secretions.

Exam rooms are cleaned with disinfectant before and after each patient.

Some patients are seen by staff wearing gowns and gloves. This is known as contact isolation and helps us protect you from indirect contact with secretions from other patients. Not all patients at our CF clinic require extra contact precaution. We based the decision reagarding contact isolation on the germs you grew in your previous respiratory culture. If you or your child is on contact isolation, the minimum requirement is for gloves to be worn by the person entering your room. If that person will be in contact with the patient, he or she will wear a disposable gown. Do not hesitate to question someone who does this differently.

If you are coughing you may also be required to wear a mask in clinic to protect the other patients and the staff. Clinic team members who have a cold may also wear masks to protect you.

Dr. Laura Sass from the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic.
Dr. Laura Sass from the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic.

Infection control in the hospital

If you are on contact isolation in the CF clinic, the same precautions will be needed in the hospital. You may also be on droplet precaution depending on your symptoms or the treatment that you may be given. This means that all staff members need to wear a mask within three feet of you.

Playroom privileges depend on whether you need any isolation in the hospital. Private sessions can sbe arranged. No one can go to the playroom unless there have been had no fever for over 24 hours.

Do not go to other CF patient rooms to visit. Patients also should not "hang out" with the nursing staff or use the staff computers.

This may seem strict and difficult, but it is for your protection and safety.

Infection control at school

Your health and the health of others is private. Everyone’s medical information is confidential and it is a personal decision to share this information with others. We can help you decide what information the school needs to know about your care and provide educational materials for the school nurse and teacher(s). Another child with CF should NOT be in the same classroom if at all possible. Practice the three foot rule if near another student with CF. Check with the school to see if you can keep hand sanitizer in your desk, backpack or locker. Make sure that you wash your hands frequently between classes and before lunch.