Risk Factors for HAIs in Children in Hospital Settings

Thomas Sandora, MD, MPH, hospital epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, discusses the risk factors for healthcare associated infections in hospital settings that are unique to children.

Thomas Sandora, MD, MPH, hospital epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, discusses the risk factors for healthcare associated infections in hospital settings that are unique to children.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability).

“There are several [risk factors] that are really important. One is that children have relatively under-developed immune systems because of their young age, so they can’t fight off infections as easily as an older child or an adult might be able to. They might be too young to have received vaccines against some of the common vaccine preventable infections, so they may not be immune to the things that are circulating in a hospital setting.

There’s also some built in developmental challenges for young kids. They might not be able to wash their hands effectively, they might not have learned how to cough into their sleeve or to contain their respiratory secretions, so that can increase the risk of those infections being transmitted.

And then, importantly, family-centered care is a big thing for children’s hospitals, so the family is really at the center of taking care of a child and they may participate in parts of the child’s care. They might change a dressing on a central line or they might feed the patient, and so, if the family isn’t educated about strategies to prevent transmission of infections like cleaning their hands well, then that can also increase the risk of infection.”