Before you develop symptoms, you can get ready for cold and flu season by stocking up on basic supplies. We’ve put together a checklist of useful things to have in your home in case of a flu emergency (PDF).
If you do get sick, the most important thing you can do is stay home. The flu virus is highly contagious, and no one will admire you for coming into work or dragging yourself to school while you’re coughing and sneezing all over the place. If a loved one is sick, you should encourage them to stay in bed and rest until 24 hours after their fever is gone — that’s when the virus can no longer be spread.
While at home, you can do a number of things to make yourself (or the person you’re taking care of) feel more comfortable. Encourage the sick person to get plenty of rest, and have her or him drink clear fluids — water, broth or sports drinks will help prevent dehydration. Over-the-counter medications can help relieve symptoms like body aches, fever and coughing, but these will not make the person less contagious. Flu.gov has great information about treating the symptoms of the flu.
To prevent the spread of the flu when someone is sick at home, it’s best to have the sick person rest in an area separate from others in the family. Family members should wash their hands frequently with soap and water, especially after being around the sick person. (The person with the flu should wash their hands frequently as well!) People who are high risk for catching the flu, such as young children, pregnant women and the elderly, should avoid contact with the person who is sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers more information about caring for someone sick at home on its website.
The exception to the “stay home” rule is if you or your loved one needs to visit a health provider. And that brings us to our next point: Know when to seek medical attention. Flu symptoms can be severe, but if you or someone you’re taking care of develops any of the following symptoms, they need immediate medical attention. Be alert for:
- difficulty breathing,
- blue or purple discoloration in the lips,
- sudden confusion or change in behavior,
- sudden dizziness,
- pain or pressure in the chest,
- severe vomiting, or