Swine Flu: Taking Care of a Sick Person (cont.)
Medications to Help Lessen Symptoms of the Flu
Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist for correct, safe use of
Antiviral medications can sometimes help lessen influenza symptoms, but
require a prescription. Most people do not need these antiviral drugs to fully
recover from the flu. However, persons at higher risk for severe flu
complications, or those with severe flu illness who require hospitalization,
might benefit from antiviral medications. Antiviral medications are available
for persons 1 year of age and older. Ask your healthcare provider whether you
need antiviral medication.
Influenza infections can lead to or occur with bacterial infections.
Therefore, some people will also need to take antibiotics. More severe or
prolonged illness or illness that seems to get better, but then gets worse again
may be an indication that a person has a bacterial infection. Check with your
healthcare provider if you have concerns.
Warning! Do not give aspirin
(acetylsalicylic acid) to children or teenagers who have the flu; this can cause
a rare but serious illness called
- Check ingredient labels on
and flu medications to see if they contain aspirin.
- Teenagers with the flu can take medicines without
aspirin, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and
ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®, Nuprin®), to relieve
- Children younger than 2 years of age should not be given over-the-counter
cold medications without first speaking with a healthcare provider.
- The safest care for flu symptoms in children younger than 2 years of age is
using a cool-mist humidifier and a suction bulb to help clear away
- Fevers and aches can be treated with acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen
(Advil®, Motrin®, Nuprin®) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
Examples of these kinds of medications include:
||Advil®, Motrin®, Nuprin®
- Over-the-counter cold and flu medications used according to the package
instructions may help lessen some symptoms such as cough and
Importantly, these medications will not lessen how infectious a person is.
- Check the ingredients on the package label to see if
the medication already contains acetaminophen or ibuprofen before taking
additional doses of these medications—don't double dose! Patients with kidney
disease or stomach problems
should check with their health care provider before taking any NSAIDS.
Check with your health care provider or pharmacist if
you are taking other over-the-counter or prescription medications not
related to the flu.
When to Seek Emergency Medical Care
Get medical care right away if the sick person at home:
- has difficulty breathing or
- has purple or blue discoloration of the
- is vomiting and unable to keep liquids down
- has signs of dehydration such as
dizziness when standing, absence of
urination, or in infants, a lack of tears when they cry
- has seizures (for example, uncontrolled convulsions)
- is less responsive than normal or becomes confused
Steps to Lessen the Spread of Flu in the Home
When providing care to a household member who is sick with influenza, the
most important ways to protect yourself and others who are not sick are to:
- keep the sick person away from other people as much as possible (see
"placement of the sick person at home")
- remind the sick person to cover their coughs, and clean their hands with
soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub often, especially after coughing
- have everyone in the household clean their hands often, using soap and
water or an alcohol-based hand rub
- ask your healthcare provide if household contacts of the sick person,
particularly those contacts that may have chronic health conditions, should take
antiviral medications such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) or
zanamivir (Relenza®) to
prevent the flu.
Placement of the sick person
- Keep the sick person in a room separate from the common areas of the house.
(For example, a spare bedroom with its own bathroom, if that's possible.) Keep
the sickroom door closed.
- Unless necessary for medical care, persons with the
flu should not leave the home when they have a fever or during the time that
they are most likely to spread their infection to others (7 days after onset of symptoms in adults, and
10 days after onset of symptoms in children).
- If persons with the flu need to leave the home (for example, for medical
care), they should cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and wear
a loose-fitting (surgical) mask if available.
- Have the sick person wear a surgical mask if they need to be in a common
area of the house near other persons.
- If possible, sick persons should use a separate bathroom. This bathroom
should be cleaned daily with household disinfectant (see below).