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How to Stay Healthy When Family Members Have the Flu

how to avoid getting flu or cold from family members

Your spouse or partner has the flu, and they need you for care, comfort, and moral support. If you hang around, however, you run the risk of catching the bug yourself. How can you be there for them and still keep the infection from making the short leap to you?

The answer is, you need to understand what you can about the virus and take specific action.

Understand that the flu isn’t just an especially stubborn cold

The flu does come with symptoms of the common cold or cough, but it isn’t the same; it’s much more serious. A cough or cold doesn’t usually kill anyone; the flu, on the other hand, kills more than 35,000 people in the US alone each year. Whether it’s fall (the flu season), or you’re exposed to the virus from being around a loved one, you want to avoid getting infected and take it seriously if your throat feels a little scratchy.

Flu spreads through the air, but also through contact

Most realize that when a person with the flu coughs or sneezes, it launches infected droplets in the air that could get to them. It’s important to understand, however, that this isn’t the only way the infection spreads. It can also spread through touch. If a person with the illness sneezes into their hand and then touches a surface, this action contaminates the surface. If you happen to touch it, your hand could carry the infection to your mouth or eyes and sicken you.

Start with an early visit to the doctor

Many people don’t realize that the flu doesn’t need to run its full course. You can cut it short if you start treatment early. If your partner has the flu, make an appointment to see a doctor the very first day, or at least in the first three days. A course of antiviral medication can help make sure that everyone at home stands a better chance of escaping uninfected.

When you go to the doctor, you’ll receive advice about preventive medications or vaccinations, usually for everyone in the family. It’s important to take that advice.

Understand that flu vaccinations are a good thing

You can get the flu more than once, and catching the bug once doesn’t give you immunity against repeat infections. The reason is that the virus keeps mutating and adapting.  Each year, then, the virus has new tricks up its sleeve.

The earliest flu vaccines only protected against influenza A. Today, there are trivalent vaccines that protect against two kinds of strains (A and B). Scientists work out how flu viruses evolve or adapt to the environment that they find themselves in and improve the vaccines to keep up. Getting a new flu shot each year is a good idea. If a family member has the flu, getting it truly makes sense. It’s important to remember that vaccinations prevent around 4,000 flu-related deaths each year.

Take a few common sense measures

The first thing that you should do is to remind the sick person how to cough or sneeze — it’s better to not muffle it over with the hands. Infected hands can spread the virus through contact. Instead, it is a good idea to sneeze into the crook of one’s arm.

Since it is always possible that some coughs or sneezes get through, it’s best for healthy family members to not sleep in the same room. Kissing, hugging or other contact isn’t a good idea, either.

Make sure that the sick person washes their hands with soap a few times a day, and make sure that you wash your hands. Any surface at all that may harbor contamination should get wiped down, as well.

Finally, make sure that the sick person does everything possible to get better quickly.  Make sure they rest well. A humidifier in the room can help keep the airways and mucous membranes well-hydrated and keep coughing and sneezing fits to a minimum.

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