WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–October 15, 2009 — With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that the H1N1 (swine flu) virus has now spread throughout the United States, the American Red Cross has a set of tips for people who are sick or are taking care of someone who has the flu.
Flu viruses spread from person-to-person in droplets of coughs or sneezes, and can also spread if a person touches droplets on another person or object and then touches their own mouth or nose before washing their hands. To prevent the spread of the flu, it is important to remember to wash your hands and cover your cough or sneeze.
“It’s important to know what to do to protect yourself and others when you are taking care of someone who has the flu,” said Sharon Stanley, chief nurse and director, Red Cross Disaster Health and Mental Health Services. Recent survey results conducted by the Red Cross reveal that six in ten Americans feel that they need more information about how to care for someone with the flu*. The following tips can be helpful:
If you are ill:
- Stay in a room separate from common areas of the home and avoid contact with others as much as possible.
- Stay at home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone without using medicine to reduce the fever.
- Get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids.
- Consider wearing a facemask, if available and tolerable, when sharing common spaces with household members.
- Check with your healthcare provider about whether to take antiviral medication, or if fever persists, whether antibiotics are needed.
When caring for someone who has the flu:
- Disinfect door knobs, switches, handles, toys and other surfaces that everyone touches.
- Use detergent and very hot water to do dishes and wash clothes. It’s okay to wash everyone’s dishes and clothes together. Wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.
- Designate only one adult as the caregiver. People at increased risk of severe illness from the flu should not be caregivers.
- Deal with crisis situations calmly and confidently to give the best support to the person being cared for.
- Remember your own needs as well.
- Practice healthy habits. Eat a balanced diet. Drink plenty of water. Get regular exercise.
- Get enough sleep and rest.
Caring for someone else can be stressful. Common symptoms of stress include sleep disturbances, headaches, muscle tension or aches, a change in appetite, skin problems, anxiety, depression, frustration and overreacting. If someone is dealing with a lot of stress, it’s important to ask for help. If a caregiver is in a stressful situation, they should express their feelings to people they trust, get into a regular schedule of seven to eight hours of sleep, exercise, and take some time to relax.
According to the CDC, most people who have become ill with the H1N1 virus are moderately ill, similar to the illness that occurs during the regular flu season. H1N1 is affecting many young adults and children, people ages five to 24. The majority of people sick with H1N1 don’t need testing or treatment. However if someone is severely ill and is pregnant, and has trouble breathing or has an underlying condition like heart disease, lung disease (such as asthma) or diabetes, it is important to get treated promptly within the first 48 hours..
The Red Cross also offers the award-winning Family Caregiving quick reference guide with a companion DVD for purchase on www.RedCrossStore.org.
*CARAVAN® Opinion Research Corporation conducted three telephone surveys of U.S. Adults on behalf of the American Red Cross, with the most recent in October 2009 (May 1-4, 2009, 1,004 Respondents; July 17-20, 2009, 1,002 Respondents; and October 8-11, 2009, 1,005 Respondents). Margin of error for each is +/- 3.1 percent at the 95% confidence level.