Health & Wellness Articles

Caring for a Loved One Who Has the Flu

How to Stay Healthy When Your Family is Sick


Home Care Tips
If a family member has the flu, create a designated room where he or she can rest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that only one healthy household member enter this sick room to serve as a caregiver.
If possible, use an open window or fan to keep air circulating, and ask the sick person to follow typical precautions, including covering his or her mouth and nose while sneezing and throwing away used tissues.

If you've visited a medical provider, follow his or her instructions. If not, treat the flu symptomatically. Encourage the sick person to rest and drink clear fluids to prevent dehydration, and try over-the-counter remedies for congestion, sore throat, fever and pain. Remember that pharmacists are trained to help you pick the right medication, even without a prescription.

In addition, simple home remedies recommended by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services include using a cool compress for fever, gargling with salt water for a sore throat and using a humidifier to ease breathing.

When to Call a Doctor
Most cases of the flu resolve on their own, though symptoms usually take a week or two to disappear. In some cases, however, symptoms become serious enough that medical attention is necessary. If you observe any of the following symptoms as a flu patient or caregiver, seek medical attention:
  • Seizures or loss of consciousness
  • Sharp chest pains, especially when breathing
  • Difficulty breathing or bluish skin
  • Dizziness or confusion, particularly if it begins suddenly
  • A 103-degree fever or higher
  • Flu symptoms that fade then reappear with fever, increased coughing and/or chest pain
Remember that small children, elderly people and those with chronic illnesses may be more susceptible to complications from the flu, and should be watched more closely and taken to a physician more quickly at the first sign of trouble. If in doubt, seek help.

When caring for a loved one, following routine, hygienic procedures to prevent the virus from spreading is among the most effective ways to keep yourself healthy. Protect yourself by isolating the sick person, washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, and keeping your home clean and well-ventilated.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives,", accessed on September 5, 2013.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Follow the Sick Room Rules,", accessed on September 5, 2013., "Caring for Someone with the Flu,", accessed on September 5, 2013., "Treatment,", accessed on September 5, 2013.

Harvard Medical School, "When to Contact Your Doctor about Flu Symptoms,", accessed on September 5, 2013.

MIT New, "How to Stop the Flu,", accessed on September 5, 2013.
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About The Author

Robin Donovan Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and magazine journalist with experience covering health, medicine, science, business, technology and design.

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