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Although some hospitals have moved towards prohibiting flowers at the bedside because of a number of potential risk concerns, researchers say that evidence shows that these risks may not be great, according to findings published in BMJ (2009;339:b5257).

To explore the possible health and safety risks surrounding the presence of bedside bouquets in hospitals, Giskin Day and Naiome Carter of Imperial College London surveyed the literature and talked with patients and staff at two UK hospitals about their attitudes about flowers.

Older research had come down negatively on flowers. One study from 1973 found that although flower water contained high counts of bacteria, subsequent research gave no evidence that f lower water has ever caused hospital-acquired infection. An even older study reported that in the late 1900s, it was believed that flowers compete for patients’ oxygen at night. Subsequent studies revealed a negligible impact of flowers on air composition.

On the plus side, other studies have reported that flowers have immediate and long-term positive effects on emotions, mood, social behaviors, and memory for patients. In fact, one study found that hospital patients in rooms with plants and flowers required significantly fewer postoperative analgesics; had lower blood pressure and a lower heart rate; had lower levels of pain, anxiety, and fatigue; and had more positive attitudes than patients in the control group.

Simone Cohn, a medical anthropologist at Cambridge University, suggests that the decision to ban flowers “seems to reflect a much broader shift towards a model of care that has little time or place for more messy and nebulous elements.” ONA