H1N1 Swine Flu NICU
Swine flu (H1N1) in the NICU, or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, is becoming more and more of a concern for parents with a baby in the Neonatal ICU. If a mother or father of a baby in the NICU has the swine flu, or normal flu, then certain precautions must be set in place.
If a mom or dad of an NICU baby has H1N1 Swine Flu, then it is almost a certainty that they will not be allowed to visit their baby in the NICU for the duration of the illness. After a physician has cleared the parent of the illness, then they may be asked to wear a gown, mask, and gloves when around their baby.
NICU Visitors and Swine Flu
Anyone visiting an NICU infant who has been exposed to an individual with the Swine Flu may be asked to gown, mask, and glove as precautionary measures. So if mom has the swine flu, and dad doesn’t…dad will be allowed to visit the baby while the mom cannot. However, the dad must gown, glove, and mask when visiting the infant since he is considered ‘exposed’ to the mother’s swine flu.
Every NICU has a different visitation policy, and will have specific visitation guidelines regarding the swine flu. Make sure to check with the charge nurse in regards to any swine flu questions you may have.
Hand Washing and Swine Flu
Keeping hands washed and clean is absolutely vital during the midst of flu season, especially with the swine flu so rampant among infants and pregnant mothers. If visiting the NICU as a parent or visitor, wash your hands thoroughly, AND use a hand sanitizer afterwards. Most, if not all, NICUs will have both available to parents.
Remember to wash your hands and use hand sanitizer when leaving the unit as well.
Sibling and Children Visitation
Many Neonatal Intensive Care Units have disallowed visitation by any child under the age of 18, regardless of relationship to the NICU patient. This is for a very good reason.
The most common occurrences of swine flu are among children, who pass it extremely easily to other kids, due to being in school and daycare for extended periods of time. With kids having this high risk for swine flu (or normal influenza) exposure, NICUs are eliminating the risk of exposure to the infants and neonates by not allowing visitation by anyone under the age of 18.
This, of course, does not include parents of an NICU infant who may be under the age of 18, but that is usually the exception.
Keep the NICU free of Swine Flu Exposure
It is important as NICU parents to keep your infant as safe as possible, which means if you have the swine flu (or even the normal flu), you must to tell the NICU staff, so they can go over your visitation options. While it is going to be hard to not see your baby for a few days, it is well worth the sacrifice to ensure the health and safety of your NICU baby.
It is also important that parents not allow any visitation by friends or family with the swine flu. If they have been exposed, it is at their discretion whether or not they want to bring them in. Remember that if friends and family have been exposed, and visit the baby, then the parents will more than likely become exposed as well by just being around that person. Which means they could go into swine flu precautionary measures as well.
Ultimately, talk with the NICU staff and determine what the best course of action is. The primary goal is to keep the infants in the Neonatal ICU unexposed, safe, and healthy.
Updated: June 2011