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Care for a Flu Patient Without Infecting Yourself and Others

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Care for a Flu Patient Without Infecting Yourself and Others

Influenza is a contagious disease, but good habits can decrease the chances of the virus spreading in your household. An annual flu shot provides frontline protection, according to Dr. Bruce Gellin, director of the National Vaccine Program Office (see video below). Also follow these recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Recognize Flu Symptoms

  • Fever of at least 100o F or feeling feverish
  • Cough and/or sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches and/or body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (usually in children)
The common cold causes similar but milder symptoms than the flu. If you can’t distinguish them, a medical test can diagnose influenza.

Create a Sick Room

Put the flu patient in a separate sick room from other household members, especially those with high risks for flu complications. It should keep him away from shared areas of your home. If you have more than one bathroom, relegate one to the sick person. Well people should use the other(s). No one should share washcloths, towels, or drinking glasses. Stock the sick room with:
  • Medicines, keeping them out of reach of any children
  • Tissues
  • Trash can with lid lined with a plastic trash bag
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Cooler or pitcher with ice and drinks
  • Cup with straw or squeeze bottle to simplifying drinking while reclining
  • Thermometer
  • Humidifier, a machine that emits tiny drops of water into the air to make breathing easier
  • Facemasks

Take Precautions

Assign only one adult to take care of the sick person. Pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions, and those at increased risk of severe illness from the flu shouldn’t be caregivers. Follow these steps to protect the caregiver and others in your home from getting the flu.
  • Everyone in the house needs to wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers frequently. Do this after every contact with the patient, sick room, his bathroom, and items he uses and touchman with flu in bet with thermometeres.
  • Remind the sick person to cough into tissues or his sleeves. He needs to throw used tissues and other disposable items in the trash and clean his hands with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizers often, especially after coughing and sneezing.
  • Limit visitors to one caregiver. Emails, text messages, and phone calls are safer than in-person contact. If someone else must enter the sick room, he should stay at least 6 feet away from the patient.
  • Restrict contact with the sick person. Spend as little time as possible with the patient. Avoid face-to-face interaction. The sick person and maybe the caregiver should use facemasks whenever they’re in the same room, and the patient needs to wear one if he must leave the sick room to visit the bathroom or doctor.
  • Hold a small child who’s sick with his chin over your shoulder so he doesn’t cough in your face.
  • Ventilate shared household areas. Keep windows open or use fans to circulate fresh air in the kitchen, bathrooms, living room, etc.
  • Ask the doctor if well people in your home, especially those at increased risk of severe illness, should take antiviral medications to prevent them from getting the flu.

Use Proper Cleaning Techniques

Follow these procedures to clean the sick room and patient’s bathroom daily:
  • Keep surfaces clean (especially bedside table, in the bathroom, doorknobs, phones, and children’s toys) by wiping them down with a household disinfectant.
  • Clean eating utensils and dishes the sick person used thoroughly with dish soap and hot water on in your dishwasher before reusing.
  • Hold the patient’s dirty laundry away from your face and body. Wash bed sheets and towels with laundry detergent and tumble dry on a hot setting. Right after touching his dirty laundry, wash your hands.
  • Keep the sick person at home, getting plenty of rest.
  • If the patient becomes very ill, is pregnant, age 65 or older, or otherwise at high risk for flu-related complications, call the doctor. He may prescribe an antiviral medication to make the illness milder and prevent serious complications or an antibiotic if the flu has progressed to a bacterial infection.
  • Maintain a written record of all medication doses and administration times.
  • Give the patient over-the-counter flu remedies on schedule to relive fever and cough. Be aware that they won’t make him less contagious. Dispense all other medications as his doctor directed.
  • Encourage him to drink plenty of clear fluids like water, broth, sports drinks, and electrolyte beverages to prevent dehydration.
  • Provide cool, damp washcloths for the sick person to place on his forehead, arms, and legs to reduce the discomfort of a fever.
  • Gargling with salt water can soothe his sore throat.
  • Supply a warm blanket so he can cover himself to calm chills.

Increase Patient Comfort

  • Keep the sick person at home, getting plenty of rest.
  • If the patient becomes very ill, is pregnant, age 65 or older, or otherwise at high risk for flu-related complications, call the doctor. He may prescribe an antiviral medication to make the illness milder and prevent serious complications or an antibiotic if the flu has progressed to a bacterial infection.
  • Maintain a written record of all medication doses and administration times.
  • Give the patient over-the-counter flu remedies on schedule to relive fever and cough. Be aware that they won’t make him less contagious. Dispense all other medications as his doctor directed.
  • Encourage him to drink plenty of clear fluids like water, broth, sports drinks, and electrolyte beverages to prevent dehydration.
  • Provide cool, damp washcloths for the sick person to place on his forehead, arms, and legs to reduce the discomfort of a fever.
  • Gargling with salt water can soothe his sore throat.

Supply a warm blanket so he can cover himself to calm chills.

Seek Immediate Medical Care

Contact the doctor promptly if the flu patient experiences:
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Purple or blue discoloration of the lips
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough



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