Page 1 of 2Despite our best efforts at prevention--hand scrubbing, disinfecting, coughing into elbows, avoiding handshakes--a virus sometimes weasels its way in. Follow the tips below to prevent the flu from spreading, and learn how to care for a loved one with the flu.
Know the Symptoms
It's difficult to distinguish the flu from a cold, but it often manifests as a severe cold. The flu might also cause aches, chills, fever and exhaustion. And while a stuffy, runny nose probably means you simply have a cold, discomfort in your chest could signal the flu instead.
Vomiting and diarrhea are also hallmarks of the flu in children, although what most people call stomach flu is not a flu at all. Watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting are really viral gastroenteritis.
So, if you're run down with a stuffy nose and some mild aches, you probably have a cold. Severe aches, exhaustion, fever, nausea, and diarrhea and vomiting in children points to the flu.
Stop the Spread
It can be hard to be a compassionate caregiver when you're worried about getting sick yourself. How can you stop the spread of the flu when someone you're close to has it?
You probably know the obvious tips: Keep your distance from a sick person, and wash your hands frequently if someone in your household has the flu, being sure to scrub for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth.
Finally, disinfect surfaces and objects regularly, especially if they were touched or handled by a person with the flu. That includes bathroom and kitchen counters, which tend to be among the germiest places in your home, as well as doorknobs, light switches and faucet handles.
In a study conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, paper masks also helped keep healthy caretakers flu-free. Findings suggested that the masks prevented healthy household member from touching their eyes, nose and mouth after being exposed to the virus.
Keep an eye on those most susceptible to the flu, too. For example, hold small children with their chins to your shoulder when they're sick, so that virus particles will travel away from you when they sneeze or cough. If you have elderly family members or individuals who are at higher risk of complications (due to existing chronic illness), ask a health-care provider if antiviral medications are appropriate to prevent them from getting the flu when someone nearby is sick.