Medical Surgical Airborne vs Droplet precautions #1


A client’s rRT-PCR COVID test came back from the lab indicating a positive infection of SARS-CoV-2. The nurse educates the client on airborne and droplet precautions as they relate to the COVID-19 virus. Which statement by the client indicates additional teaching is required?


  1. “While at home infected with COVID, I will refrain from using my nebulizer indoors.”
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because although nebulizer treatments can aerosolize respiratory droplets into the air indoors for up to 2 hours, the client can use it outdoors if needed. When particles that are normally too large to be classified as droplet are aerosolized, they are considered airborne transmission.

  2. “I do not have to wear a mask in my own home with my family while I am infected with COVID.”
    • Rationale:

      This answer is correct because droplet precautions require barrier protection by the infected client. A mask keeps the infected client’s respiratory droplets to themselves. By wearing a mask, the client is protecting the family from their infectious respiratory droplets.

  3. “I will sleep in a separate room from my wife to protect her from my coughs and sneezes.”
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because sleeping in a private room may protect the client’s spouse from infection if he were to sneeze, cough, or snore in his sleep. Isolating the client is an intervention utilized during droplet precautions to protect others from the client while he speaks, coughs, or sneezes.

  4. “I will wash my hands often throughout the day.”
    • Rationale:

      This answer is incorrect because hand hygiene is the primary measure to prevent droplet transmission. By practicing good hand hygiene, one reduces pathogens considerably.


Airborne transmission is when any size particle is capable of traveling through air. Droplet transmission is when infection-containing respiratory droplets are exhaled by a person within about 6 feet.


Learning Outcomes

Airborne precautions are initiated when infectious particles are capable of traveling through the air. Examples of airborne diseases include measles, chicken pox, tuberculosis, and disseminated varicella zoster. Droplet precautions are initiated when infectious particles are transmitted through exhalation with speaking, coughing, spitting, or sneezing. Examples of droplet transmission include adenovirus, influenza, pneumonia, pertussis, sepsis, streptococcal pharyngitis, mumps, and meningitis. The COVID-19 virus is considered a droplet precautions virus by the Center for Disease Control with the possibility of becoming airborne in certain environments/circumstances. Poorly ventilated indoors spaces, crowds and high flow oxygen use, or nebulizers can aerosolize the particles into the air for 2 hours and infect people further away than 6 feet.

Test Taking Tip

Know the difference between airborne and droplet precautions, and how and when droplets can be considered airborne. Some droplets can become airborne when aerosolized through nebulizers or high flow oxygen.

Video Rationale