How the infection prevention Grinch stole Christmas

By: December 16th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

At this time of the year, I usually risk Grinch-related epithets and write an article or blog post on facility safety concerns from holiday decorations. But I just came across an article on holiday decorations and infection control concerns from the land of Dickens, A Christmas Carol, and yes, Scrooge.

In, Julie Hughes, a nurse consultant infection control/lecturer, in NHS Foundation Trust in Great Britain, acknowledges that that Christmas decorations are not only potential facility safety concerns, but infection control challenges in clinical areas as well.

Admitting that there is little available evidence either way on decorations related to infection control, Hughes does say that holiday decorations are difficult to clean “particularly in the event of norovirus outbreaks which are particularly challenging at this time of year.”

Hughes recommends this commonsense approach to not compromising  infection control concerns by avoiding:

  • Live trees with soil
  • Glass baubles
  • Tinsel
  • Cloth toys or anything that cannot be cleaned

Also, make sure the placement of decorations in mental health and pediatric settings are suitable from a health and safety perspective, even though in metal health and elder care “decorations are good for orientating patients to time and place,” says Hughes.


CDC restrict only for oncology/neutropenic patient.
As long as decoration is well maintained and organised,the risk can be reduce significantly.Decoration away from patient area,date of start of decoration and when to removed is followed strictly.
.It will give the opportunity to feel the warm welcome of christmas season to health care workers who can not plan for leaves and patient who will stay in hospital during this time.It will also give the spirit of team building,cohesiveness,recycling thoughts

Not to be a Grinch or anything but it seems to me that with all the information we get concerning mental health and suicides during the holiday season, why would we put decorations up to “potentially” send people already on the edge over the edge?

By cornelia walsh on December 21st, 2011 at 7:14 am

Just a quick note to say that holiday decorations will not potentially send people over the edge.
People who are suicidal over the holidays are responding to much more than decorations. It is all the “family togetherness”, the money that is flowing for gifts and the “fantasy” for lack of a better word that everyone is happy, families are intact and in harmony and there is plenty to go around that makes people feel empty and alone.
Holiday celebrations are very important in our psych hospital. It helps patients feel as though they are part of something and belong to a caring group of people.
Happy holidays to you and yours!

Again- the IP caveat- HANY HYGIENE, HAND HYGIENE, HAND HYGIENE. Safety is important for fire regulaitons as well as in special areas cited above such as peds & behavioural health facilities, Overall the decorations help to lift spirits of those in the hospital especially when they are alone over the holidays. Tim- Thanks for your well thought out comments.

In years past in our old facility the place looked like Santa’s workshop. Lighting everywhere. Looked nice at night.
Our State Fire Marshall set rules for decorating and a lot of Santa’s workshop disappeared. In 2010 the rules were updated and we had lights in occupied areas only 24 hrs/day. Patients had artificial battery lighted trees to be turned off at bedtime.
One wreath on a door no Christmas cards posted on doors. I think we did very well this year no problems. Inf Control didn’t say a word.

Lynn- agree with you- I certainly would not have said anything as an infeciton preventionist. Sounds like you have a good balance with the fire department also.

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