Caring for someone with the flu

Caring for someone with the flu

If someone in your household is unfortunate enough to catch the flu, how should you care for them? What is the best way to help them recover from their illness without spreading the virus to other members of your household?

If they have a simple case of the flu (the flu without any complications), the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) advises they take bed rest at home to minimise any risk of them spread the virus to others in the community (1). Their treatment would focus on reducing their fever and relieving their other symptoms (1)(2).

But how do you look after them while they’re at home? Let’s take a look at some tips:

Keep contact to one person – the caregiver

When it comes to caring for someone with the flu, if you can, choose only one caregiver and, if possible, someone who is not pregnant and does not have chronic health problems (4). If you are caring for someone with the flu, try to avoid being face-to-face with them (3). If that person is a child, for instance, place their chin on your shoulder when you hold them so they cannot cough in your face (3).

You should spend the least amount of time possible in close contact with that sick person (3). One option might be to give them a separate room to help keep others in the family from getting the flu (4), and if there is more than one sick person, they could share that room. The sick person (or people) should not have visitors other than the caregiver (4). If visitors must enter, they should stay at least two metres away from anyone who is sick (4).

Kitting out their rooms

Kit their room with the things they might need to manage their symptoms and aid their recoveries (4), such as ice-cold drinks, cups with straws or a squeeze bottle, a thermometer and a humidifier (to put tiny drops of water into the air, which can make it easier for the sick person to breathe). Open a window, if possible, or use a fan to keep fresh air flowing (4).

You could also put facemasks in the room and ask the sick person (or people) to wear one when they leave the room or are around other people (4). Also, put tissues, a waste bin (with a lid and lined with a plastic bag) and an alcohol-based hand sanitiser in the room. Ask the sick person to use a tissue to cover coughs and sneezes and then throw used tissues in the waste bin (4).

If you have more than one bathroom, have the sick person (or people) use one bathroom, and the healthy people use the other (4). Give each sick person their own drinking glass, washcloth, and towel (4).

Regular cleaning and washing are essential

Clean hard surfaces that may have flu germs on them using water and dish soap or common household cleaners that kill germs (4).

You can wash the sick person’s bedding or clothes with other people’s laundry (4). Wash bedsheets and towels with normal laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot setting. But hold all dirty laundry away from your face and body and wash your hands straight away after touching dirty laundry (4).

Make sure to wash your hands after touching the sick person as well as after handling their tissues or laundry (3). If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser (3).

The best way to look after your household is to help prevent them from catching the flu, and the most effective way to prevent the flu is vaccination (5). Safe and effective vaccines are available and have been used for more than 70 years (5). Encourage not only your household but also your wider family, friends and your colleagues to get their flu vaccine every year.


References
(1) https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/seasonal-influenza/facts/factsheet
(2) https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)
(3) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/treatment/caring-for-someone.htm
(4) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/general/influenza_flu_homecare_guide.pdf
(5) https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)

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