Family care during the flu season
When a loved one is severely ill with the flu, they rely on you to help them feel better. Here is a checklist of steps you can take when looking after someone who is home with the flu:
- Find out whether you or your family members are at risk of flu complications. The flu can usually go away on its own without any treatment. However, there are some people who are at risk of flu complications. The at-risk people include children under 5 years old, pregnant women, people with medical conditions, and people who are older than 65 years. See Are you at risk? and use the "Are you at risk of flu complications?" tool for more information on at-risk groups.
- If you or someone in your family fall into an at-risk group, make sure they see their doctor as soon as they notice flu-like symptoms, preferably within the first 48 hours. Antiviral medication is available to help reduce symptoms and reduce complications. Use the Doctor Discussion Guide to help you prepare for the visit to the doctor.
- Consider using symptom-control medications; for other symptoms such as fever and cough, over-the-counter medications can be used. For fever, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used. Do not give acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) to children under 18, since it has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a serious condition affecting the nervous system and liver. A cough suppressant may help a dry cough. Do not give cough medication to children under 6 years old.
- Use a face mask for sick people who must go outside. Face masks are not recommended for most people, either the person who has the flu, or anyone taking care of someone with the flu. However, if a sick person must go out into the community, such as going to the doctor's office, a face mask should be worn to reduce the risk of spreading the flu to others in the community. Other measures, such as avoiding mass transit and coughing or sneezing into the arm or sleeve, are recommended as well.
- Prepare meals for the sick person and give them lots of fluids.
- Keep the sick person's things separate from others. Wash dishes, laundry, and towels that the sick person touched with soap and hot water as soon as possible.
- While you are taking care of your family, remember to follow the usual precautions for flu prevention. Proper hand-washing, avoiding contact with others, coughing and sneezing into your arm or sleeve, and keeping your hands away from your face are all ways to prevent spreading the flu. Remind all family members to take these steps. Read more here.
- Children may need extra support and reassurance. Comfort your child and let them know that there are many things they can do to get healthy. Listen to your children and let them ask questions about the flu. Continue doing your daily routines, and maintain routines such as mealtimes.
Taking care of a sick family member can be stressful. You may feel anxious, worried, confused, or helpless. You might have difficulty concentrating and sleeping. You may worry about the health and safety of your family, especially children. These are normal reactions. While you take care of your family during the flu season, it's important for you to remember to pace yourself and know your limits.
Learn to cope with stress by:
- Getting enough sleep.
- Staying physically active. Even a short walk after lunch can help.
- Eating healthy. Drink plenty of water and juices and avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Making time for yourself.
- Talking and spending time with other family members and friends.
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