The next time you plan to bring a gift to a friend in the hospital, check the visitor policy first.

Some health-care facilities are tightening restrictions on where flowers, plants, balloons and other cheery items are allowed, citing concerns about the potential for infection, among other risks.

Most intensive-care units have been no-flower zones for decades. Many hospitals now have banned latex balloons out of concern for latex allergies. Now, some are extending limitations to ICU step-down units, cardiac-care units, pediatrics, labor and delivery units.

“Every place has its quirks. It varies with each hospital, each unit, sometimes each patient,” says Jeff Gaster, owner of CitiFloral, which has delivered flowers and other items to the cluster of hospitals along “bedpan alley” on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for 30 years.

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Yet evidence linking flowers and plants to outbreaks of infection or illness in individual patients is minimal, infectious-disease experts say.


“This is one of the issues where there’s a paucity of evidence, and when that happens in infection control, one of our goals is always to keep the patient safe,” says Susan Dolan, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, which represents more than 15,000 clinicians working to fight healthcare-associated infections. “It’s not cut-and-dried, if you’ll pardon the pun, which is why you see a spectrum of what hospitals will and won’t allow.”

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