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Nassau Red Cross Offers Tips for Caring for Someone With the Flu

With the H1N1 (swine flu) virus spreading and seasonal flu season upon us, the American Red Cross is offering important tips for people who are sick or are taking care of someone with the flu.

“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.

The Red Cross recommends the following when caring for someone who has the flu:

• Disinfect door knobs, switches, handles, toys and other commonly handled surfaces.

• Use detergent and very hot water to do dishes and wash clothes; wash hands thoroughly after handling dirty laundry.

• Designate only one adult as the caregiver and ensure this person is not at increased risk of severe illness from either flu.

• Give the best support to the person being cared for by dealing with crisis situations calmly and confidently.

“While they are taking care of people who are sick, caregivers should also remember to take care of themselves and their own needs,” said Matt Crimmins, director of Health and Safety for the Nassau Red Cross. “Practice healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep and rest.”

Caring for an ill loved one 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 overreaction to circumstances. When someone is dealing with a great deal of stress, trusted persons should provide an open communication channel in which that individual can express feelings or ask for help.

The following steps are recommended for those who become 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 the fever is gone without having to use fever-reducing medicine.

• Get a lot of rest and drink plenty of fluids.

• Consider wearing a face mask when sharing common spaces with household members.

• Contact a health care provider about whether to take antiviral medication, or if fever persists, whether antibiotics are needed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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. The majority of people sick with H1N1 do not need testing or professional attention. However if someone is severely ill and is pregnant, has trouble breathing or has an underlying condition like heart disease, lung disease (such as asthma) or diabetes, it is important to seek prompt medical treatment within the first 48 hours of symptoms.

Flu viruses spread from person-to-person in water droplets of coughs or sneezes. Flu viruses can also spread if a person touches droplets on another person or object and then touches his or her own mouth or nose before hand washing. To prevent the spread of the flu, it is important to remember to properly wash hands and always cover coughs or sneezes.

The Red Cross offers a great deal of flu-related information online and also offers courses to the public and businesses. For more information, visit the American Red Cross in Nassau County at www.nassauredcross.org or call 747-3500.