RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—"What a beautiful flower arrangement! Now please get it out of the hospital." That's not something anyone who's just spent good money on get-well flowers wants to hear. Yet, if a trend among British hospitals catches fire on this side of the pond, more and more well-intentioned U.S. hospital visitors could be hearing those exact words.
THE DETAILS: A recent article in the British Medical Journal noted that U.K. hospitals started banning flowers in the late 1990s, due misconceptions that stagnant flower water breeds bacteria and that plants compete with patients for oxygen. Although studies have dispelled both myths, the trend has continued to grow, fueled by surveys showing that nurses and other hospital staff get annoyed at having to change the blooms' water. Hospital workers also fear fragile vases will break, spilling water on expensive medical equipment.
American hospitals haven't followed suit—yet—except in intensive care units, and the bans abroad seem to pay little heed to studies showing that flowers do have a powerful healing effect; research has found that get-well flowers in hospital rooms lower blood pressure and rates of pain, and that patients surrounded by flowers need fewer post-operative painkillers than patients in flowerless rooms.
WHAT IT MEANS: Even if your flowers aren't likely to be banned, you can be extra thoughtful the next time you make a hospital visit by choosing flowers that will provide a healing benefit without burdening hospital staff (or other visitors) with extra tasks, like rearranging bulky arrangements or constantly throwing out soggy stems. Here are some points to keep in mind:
• Buy sneeze-less blooms. While the patient may not be allergic to flowers, family members or other visitors may be, not to mention roommates or nurses or the cleaning staff or the nurse's aides, or any one of the half-dozen hospital workers who pop in and out of a patient's room on any given day. "Roses, carnations, and chrysanthemums are great because the pollen is inside the flower and not exposed, unlike a lily," says Robert McLaughlin, CEO of the online florist Organic Bouquet. He says that's key to cutting down on sneezes because the pollen is never released into the air.
Published on: January 5, 2010