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Fighting the Flu

Avoid Getting Sick While Taking Care of Loved Ones

Eunice Singletary, MD, FACEP

Vice Chair, American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council

When someone in the household gets sick with the flu it is hard, though not impossible, to stop the spread of germs.

Avoiding contact with those who have the flu is easier said than done when someone in the house gets sick. Everyone wants to provide care and comfort for loved ones when they aren’t feeling well. Fortunately, there are many ways for parents and caregivers to minimize the spread of germs and the flu virus.

When caring for someone who has the flu, designate one person in the household as the caregiver. This helps to minimize contact with the entire household and lessen the chances of spreading the illness.

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To help stop the spread of germs, the caregiver should wash their own hands regularly and after contact with the sick person and avoid touching their own face, particularly eyes, nose, and lips. The caregiver should also keep everyone’s personal items separate. All household members should avoid sharing pens, papers, clothes, towels, sheets, blankets, food, and eating utensils unless they have been cleaned between uses.

It is important to disinfect doorknobs, switches, handles, computers, telephones, toys, and other surfaces that are commonly touched around the home. Dishes and clothes can be washed as normal using very hot water and soap. It’s also important to wash hands after handling dirty laundry. Also, wear disposable gloves when in contact with, or cleaning up, body fluids. It’s not possible to remove all danger when a loved one in the household gets sick with the flu, but there are ways to seriously minimize risk to everyone else.

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