According to the CDC, flu season is officially here. While the best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot, the vaccine can take up to two weeks to start working. So what should you do if a friend or family member is sick and you’re their primary caregiver?
To help answer this question, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you care for someone with the flu.
Monitor the sick individual to determine if they should stay home from school or work.
The best way to prevent the flu from spreading is to keep the sick person away from other people as much as possible. If the person you’re caring for has a fever or flu symptoms such as vomiting or sore throat, it’s important that they stay home until at least 24 hours after the fever or symptoms have gone away and they are no longer taking medication for the flu.
If the sick person needs to see a doctor, experts recommend calling ahead to see if your doctor’s office has specific instructions for patients with the flu. And if you need to take the person you’re caring for to the pharmacy to pick up medications, use the pharmacy’s drive-through window and let the pharmacist know that the person with you has the flu. This ensures that they will know to wash their hands after assisting you, or take any other precautions.
Select one caregiver and have a plan for staying healthy.
The fewer people who come into direct contact with the person being cared for, the smaller the chance that the flu will spread. That’s why it’s important to designate just one caregiver to take care of the person with the flu. Pregnant women or people with chronic health conditions, such as heart failure, asthma, diabetes, blood disorders and cancer, should not be the caregiver.
As a caregiver, it’s also very important to have a plan for protecting yourself from the flu. Caregivers should avoid being face-to-face with the sick person and spend as little time in close contact with the person as possible.
If you are caring for or holding a child with the flu, it’s even harder. When a child is suffering, it’s difficult to think about germs first. But if you’re unvaccinated you have to understand the risk. One option is to place your child’s chin on your shoulder while you comfort them so that they don’t cough or sneeze in your face. This is hard to do in some cases, but the fewer times you’re in direct contact the less chance you have of contracting the flu yourself. Use soothing music to keep them comfortable when you can’t be there directly, and make sure they have their favorite toys to keep them occupied (though it’s a good idea to keep track of which ones you’re using to sterilize later – consider making a “flu bin” of toys and blankets from their larger selection).
Most importantly, wash your hands often and correctly – for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap – and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, all of which are prime pathways for germs to enter the body.
Make a designated sick room and stock it with the essentials.
If possible, try to give the person with the flu their own room. If you have more than one bathroom, have the sick person use a different bathroom than the rest of your family. Avoid letting other people enter the sick room and, if they must go in, have them stay at least six feet away from the sick person.
To make the person with the flu more comfortable and help prevent the illness from spreading, keep fresh air flowing through the room by opening a window or using a fan. Each day, clean the room thoroughly by sanitizing hard surfaces that may have flu germs on them, such as doorknobs, bedside tables, bathroom sinks, toilets, counters, phones and toys. Clean bed linens, towels and laundry regularly, but be careful to hold all dirty laundry away from your body and wash your hands right after touching it.
Finally, stock the sick room with these essentials:
- A trash can with a lid and disposable trash bag
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- A pitcher with ice water to help the sick person stay hydrated
- Humidifier (this extra moisture can make it easier for the sick person to breathe)
While the flu can be a pretty unpleasant experience for the sick person and their caregiver, following these tips will help prevent the spread of the flu, and hopefully keep you and your loved ones healthy. Visit our website to get more information about the flu and how you and your loved ones can get vaccinated.