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Caring for Someone with the Flu

Keep the sick person comfortable and follow the recommendations of his or her health care provider. Keep others in the home healthy by washing hands and household surfaces frequently.

  • Ensure the sick person takes all medications as directed.
  • Put the sick person in a separate space from other members of the household.
  • Everyone in the home, including the sick person, should clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub frequently.

How do I care for the sick person?

Make sure the sick person follows any instructions given by his or her health care provider and takes all medications as directed. You can make the sick person more comfortable by following our treatment recommendations.

Get immediate medical care if the sick person experiences:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Purple or blue discoloration of the lips
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

How do I keep myself and others in the home from getting sick?

Keep the sick person away from other people as much as possible, especially those who are at high risk of complications from the flu. You can do this in your home by creating a sick room. Keep the sick person in a room away from common areas of the house. If you have more than one bathroom, have the sick person use one and well people use the other. Clean the sick room and bathroom daily with household disinfectant. The sick person should not have visitors other than caregivers. An email, text message, or phone call is safer than a visit.

Take these additional steps to protect yourself and people in your home from getting the flu.

  • You and all healthy people in the house should clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub frequently, including after every contact with the sick person, the sick person’s room or bathroom, or items used or touched by the sick person.
  • Remind the sick person to cover coughs and clean his or her hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub often, especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid being face-to-face with the sick person and, if possible, have only one adult in the home take care of the sick person. People at increased risk of severe illness from flu should not care for the sick person.
  • Hold small children who are sick with their chin on your shoulder so that they will not cough in your face.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if well people in your home—particularly those contacts who are at increased risk of severe illness—should take antiviral medications to prevent getting the flu.
  • Maintain good ventilation in shared household areas (keep windows open in restrooms, kitchen, bathroom, etc.).
  • Follow proper cleaning and disposal procedures:
    • Throw the sick person’s tissues and other used disposable items in the trash.
    • Keep surfaces clean (especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, doorknobs, phones, and children’s toys) by wiping them down with an approved household disinfectant.
    • Clean linens, eating utensils, and dishes used by the sick person thoroughly before reusing. You do not need to wash items separately.
    • Wash linens (such as bed sheets and towels) with laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot setting. Avoid “hugging” laundry to your body before washing it to prevent contaminating yourself.

Related Links

The Flu: Caring for Someone Sick at Home