How to Minimize Your Risk of Infection when Caring for Someone with the Flu

How to protect the rest of your family if someone has a cold or flu

Wash your hands frequently if you’re caring for sick family members

The flu is most commonly transmitted through the air by coughing or sneezing

Catching a cold or flu as the season changes is not uncommon. If you didn’t get a flu shot, which is recommended by doctors, washing your hands frequently is the best way to prevent against germs and bacteria. Germs can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours so avoid touching your face (mouth, nose, eyes) before washing your hands.

Has a case of influenza found its way into your family? There are some simple precautions you can take while caring for a loved one with a cold or flu.

How to Protect the Rest of Your Family if Someone Has the Flu

  • Make your patient comfortable in a separate bedroom and try to keep the door closed.

  • If you have more than one bathroom, 
assign one for the exclusive use of your 
patient. If you have only one bathroom, clean it daily using a good household 
disinfectant and keep towels and other personal items separate.

  • Ask your patient to cough or sneeze into a tissue – line a wastepaper basket with a plastic bag and empty it frequently.

  • Clean any common surfaces your patient may have touched (e.g., light switches, door handles and the telephone).

  • Both the patient and the rest of the family should wash their hands frequently using soap and water or hand sanitizer.

  • Avoid close face-to-face contact with the patient and limit their contact with the rest of the family. People who are pregnant or who have medical conditions should try to stay 1.8 metres (6 feet) away from the patient to reduce direct airborne contact.

  • When caring for small children, face them over your shoulder to prevent them from coughing into your face.

  • For extreme cases, have your patient wear a disposable respirator facemask when they are in common areas of the home (ensure it is properly sized and fitted).

  • If the patient needs to see the doctor, have him or her wear a facemask to the appointment.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.