Published Feb 28, 2014
Any advice on dealing with a dad who comes into the NICU reeking of cigarette smoke and BO to sit next to his kid? Its enough to make us gag and the other moms don't appreciate it (neither do the babies, I'm sure). I've used deodorizing spray. I take it I have no right to politely ask him to take a shower and wash his clothes..?
meanmaryjean, DNP, RN
Your physician should have a heart to heart talk about the lingering bad effects of cigarette smoke on little lungs. Sometimes, if 'the doctor' says it- it sticks a little better.
NicuGal, MSN, RN
You can talk to him and tell him he has to change his shirt before he comes in or wear a cover gown. We have no problem doing this. We talk about the effects of second hand smoke residue that lingers on clothes.
I agree with the above suggestions. It cannot be healthy for any of you!
I may be old school but I think you should use strong discretion in a matter like this. Unless there is an actual danger to patient you really have no right to say anything. It actually could be in your head. The visitor has been the father for awhile so the family is well adjusted to his body odors, etc.
It is the smoke that is really not good for preemies. We will not use linen and clothes that smell heavily of smoke and we really preach to the parents about the residue in their clothes. Now plain BO we have to kind of overlook but the smoke smell is a no no.
If you come in smelling of smoke, then the infant and staff will be exposed to what's called, "third-hand smoke." It's a newer area of study, but I don't want to have my lungs damaged because of some parent's right to smell like smoke...
The only time I don't tell parents to change anything are examples like the Amish where they only bathe once a week. In those cases, the babies will go home with them in that culture, BO and all, and it's not damaging to their lungs.
I tend to overlook the BO factor. BO can be a sign of extreme stress, depression, and simple lack of time and facilities; it actually tends to make me feel badly for my patients. I take BO as a sign that this family may need a little more TLC. I use it as a clue as to their own personal well-being and reaction to becoming a parent of a nicu baby.
The cigarette component is a more difficult issue... We use gowns and encourage smoking cessation programs citing the suspected connection between smoking households and SIDS. Of course, increased smoking can also be a sign of increased stress...it's a difficult situation in an open pod unit.
kbrn2002, ADN, RN
sorry but...as long as the family appears in good health mentally as well as physically what the father smells like is really none of our business. We can offer information on smoking risks and available help for quitting, but whether the smoker takes that advice is purely up to them. As for BO, if there are indicators that poor hygiene is related to a lack of available facilities for bathing a social services consult is indicated, and if there is no reason to suspect this is the case then his smell is his and his families business alone.
Um...since when is it okay for a visitor to put my health and the health of the patients at risk? His right to smoke doesn't supercede my right to a healthy work environment...not to mention the fragile lungs of other patients.
Unless you're burying your head in his shirt your exposure to the smoke would be nearly nonexistent. Bad for baby, yes. Bad for adult nurse in semi-close proximity, hardly.
I actually lol'd...based on your background in adult ICU (am I correct?), I can only assume that you don't do kangaroo care with your adult patients . If you did, you would know how deep you get into being in someone's personal space while transferring an 800 gram intubated infant onto mom's open chest...lol!!!!
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