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Caring for a Sick Person at Home

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If possible, designate one person as the caregiver who is not at risk for complications from the flu.  Those at risk include pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions. 

Follow the guidelines below to provide safe care for someone who is sick and to prevent the illness from spreading to others in the home.

For the Caregiver

  • Check with the sick person's health care provider if the person has a higher risk of complications. Risk factors include: being a child under the age of five, especially infants; asthma; diabetes; suppressed immune systems; heart disease; neurocognitive and neuromuscular disorders; and obesity, which is a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or more.
  • Check with the person's health care provider to discuss whether the person should take antiviral medications. Antiviral medications can sometimes help lessen influenza symptoms but require a prescription. Most people do not need these antiviral drugs to fully recover from the flu. Do not give aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) to children or teenagers who have the flu,whichcan cause a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.
  • Avoid being face-to-face with the sick person.
  • When holding a small child who is sick, place their chin on your shoulder so that the child will not cough in your face.
  • Clean your hands with soap and water after you touch the sick person or handle used tissues or laundry. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
  • Ask your health care provider if you should take antiviral medication such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) or zanamivir (Relenza®) to prevent the flu.
  • Monitor yourself and others in the home for flu symptoms. If symptoms occur: contact your health care provider; or if you do not have a health care provider, call 2-1-1, the County hotline, for help in locating a community clinic near you.
For Someone with Influenza
  • Stay away from others as much as possible. Stay in a room separate from the common areas of the home.
  • Do not go to work or school. Stay home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medication. Children, especially younger children, might be contagious for longer periods. 
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Prevent dehydration by drinking clear fluids, such as water, broth, sports drinks, and electrolyte beverages for infants.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your arm or a tissue, and throw the used tissue away.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available. 
  • Wear a facemask, if available and tolerable, when sharing common spaces with other household members to help prevent spreading the virus to others, especially if others in the home are at high risk for complications from influenza.
  • Know when to seek immediate medical attention

For Others in the Home

  • Other people in the home, especially those who are at a high risk for complications from influenza, should stay away from the sick person in the home as much as possible.
  • If possible, sick persons should use a separate bathroom. Bathrooms should be cleaned daily with household disinfectant.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
  • Use paper towels to dry hands after washing, or designate a cloth towel for each person in the household.
  • Ask your health care provider if others in the home should take antiviral medications such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) or zanamivir (Relenza®) to prevent the flu, especially those who may be pregnant or have chronic health conditions.
  • Provide good ventilation in the home by opening windows when possible.
  • Throw tissues and other disposable items used by the sick person in the trash. Wash your hands after touching items handled by the sick person.
  • Keep surfaces clean, especially bedside tables, bathroom surfaces and children's toys, by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.
  • Items used by the sick person such as linens, eating utensils, and dishes should not be shared until the items are washed thoroughly. They do not need to be washed separately.
  • Wash linens, such as bed sheets and towels, by using household laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot setting. Wash hands with soap and water after handling dirty laundry, or use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
  • Eating utensils should be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with water and soap.

More information:

County H1N1 Flu information

CDC H1N1 Flu information

Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home (CDC)

Call 2-1-1

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