How do you care for yourself and others?27 April 2009
Caring for yourself
The following are a few of the things you or those you are caring for can do to help reduce influenza symptoms. Of course, if the influenza appears to be more severe, you should consult with a medical professional immediately.
- Measure your temperature. If it is not above 38°C (100.4°F), you probably don’t have influenza.
- Rest and completely avoid rigorous exercise.
- Avoid contact with others.
- Stay at home.
- Drink plenty of fluids (a glass of water or juice every hour).
- Take paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen) to reduce fever and relieve pain. (It does not kill the virus, but it makes you feel better.)
- Gargle with warm water to ease a sore throat.
- Use saline (salt) solution nose drops to help relieve a stuffed nose.
- Keep your nose clean with disposable tissues and throw the used tissues in the garbage. Wash your hands afterwards.
- Don’t smoke.
Caring for others
Most patients with pandemic influenza will be able to remain at home during the course of their illness and can be cared for by other family members or others who live in the household. Anyone residing in a household with an influenza patient during the incubation period and illness is at risk for developing influenza. A key objective in this setting is to limit transmission of pandemic influenza within and outside the home. Even though there is a risk of transmitting the virus, people are going to have to take care of each other if they get sick. Management of Influenza PatientsPhysically separate the patient with influenza from non-ill persons living in the home as much as possible. A separate room should be set up so that the sick person can be isolated. To set up a separate room, you may need extra bedding supplies, including sheets, towels and plastic mattress covers.Consider where you could make up a sickbay that would be isolated from the rest of the house. Also consider how you would ventilate this room. It is important that air from the room is expelled to the outside of the house and not back into the house, so make a plan of how that might be done.
- To minimize the risk of spread, only the caregivers who are absolutely necessary should visit the sick person’s room, and they should always wash their hands thoroughly upon leaving. Wearing of masks can be helpful as long as you realize that it is not a panacea.
- Patients should not leave the home during the period when they are most likely to be infectious to others (i.e., 7-10 days from the onset of symptoms for adults and 21 days from the onset of symptoms for children). When movement outside the home is necessary (e.g., for medical care), the patient should follow cough etiquette (i.e., cover the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing) and wear a surgical mask if available.
- How to wear a mask: If you choose to wear a mask, place it over your nose, mouth and chin and secure in place with either the strings or elastic bands provided. Adjust the metallic strip over the bridge of your nose to ensure a secure fit so that leaks are prevented. When removing the mask, do so by touching the straps only. Carefully place the face mask into a plastic bag and tie the bag closed before putting it into a rubbish bin, preferably one with a lid. Remember that masks cannot eliminate the possibility of infection.
Management of Other Persons in the Home
- Persons/visitors who have not been exposed to pandemic influenza and who are not essential for patient care or support should not enter the home while persons are actively ill with pandemic influenza.
- If unexposed persons must enter the home, they should avoid close contact with the patient.
- Persons living in the home with the pandemic influenza patient should limit contact with the patient to the extent possible; consider designating one person as the primary care provider.
- Household members should be vigilant for the development of influenza symptoms.
Infection Control Measures in the Home
- All persons in the household should carefully follow recommendations for hand hygiene (i.e., hand washing with soap and water or use of an alcohol-based hand rub) after contact with an influenza patient or the environment in which care is provided.
- Although no studies have assessed the use of masks at home to decrease the spread of infection, use of surgical masks by the patient and/or caregiver during interactions may be of benefit. The wearing of gloves and gowns is not recommended for household members providing care in the home.
- Soiled dishes and eating utensils should be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with warm water and soap. Separation of eating utensils for use by a patient with influenza is not necessary.
- Laundry can be washed in a standard washing machine with warm or cold water and detergent. It is not necesssary to separate soiled linen and laundry used by a patient with influenza from other household laundry. Care should be used when handling soiled laundry (e.g., avoid “hugging” the laundry) to avoid contamination. Hand hygiene should be performed after handling soiled laundry.
- Tissues used by the ill patient should be placed in a bag and disposed with other household waste. Consider placing a bag for this purpose at the bedside.
- Normal cleaning of environmental surfaces in the home should be followed.