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Caring for Someone Ill with the Flu
child sick in bed

First, check with a healthcare provider about any special care the person may need for certain health conditions such as pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, asthma or emphysema, and to determine if the person should take antiviral medication.

Then follow these guidelines:

  • Treat the flu sufferer with over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen -- but:
  • NEVER give aspirin to children or teenagers. This can cause a serious illness called Reye’s Syndrome.
  • Do not give children younger than 4 years of age over-the-counter cold medications without first checking with their healthcare provider.
  • Avoid being face-to-face with the sick person, and try to provide good ventilation in the room.
  • Wash your hands after touching the sick person.
  • Keep surfaces clean.
  • Keep the flu sufferer at home, but away from others in the house as much as possible, as least until fever is absent for 24 hours.
  • Make sure the sick person drinks plenty of liquids.
Why is it important for someone with the flu to drink liquids?

The flu virus causes the body to lose water through fever and sweating. Signs of dehydration include weakness, fainting, dry mouth, dark concentrated urine, low blood pressure or a fast pulse when standing or sitting down. To prevent dehydration, it’s very important for a person with the flu to drink a lot of fluids — up to 12 glasses a day.

What about the use of antiviral drugs to treat flu?

Antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu and Relenza, are prescription medicines that fight the flu by preventing flu viruses from reproducing in your body. Taking antiviral drugs within 48 hours of first developing symptoms can lessen the severity of the illness. Antiviral drugs may also prevent serious flu complications. They are recommended for people who are at increased risk of health complications or who are sick enough to be hospitalized. Remember that antivirals are not a “silver bullet.” It is impractical to take them to prevent getting the flu, because you’d have to take them constantly, and they are expensive. The misuse of antivirals can lead to development of flu viruses that can’t be treated.