Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and none of the information presented in this post is meant as a substitute for medical advice from and treatment by a licensed professional. Always consult your physician!
You try hard and do your very best to make sure everyone stays healthy, but even you are no match for whatever strange flu bugs are cruising through the air this winter.
By all accounts, this flu season has been a doozy. Predicting how flu season will turn out is tricky, even for the scientists tasked with developing the most effective vaccine for each year. Getting vaccinated at the right time is still the best bet for your family and you to escape the most severe consequences of this very common illness.
Still, no vaccine will give you 100% immunity and the chance of getting infected remains. In my last post, I covered common sense ways to protect yourself and your family from contracting and spreading illness. Even with the best precautions, sickness happens.
Today I would like to follow that up by giving you some important tools to care for your family, should they fall ill. As with almost everything else, a little preparation and planning goes a long way to making life easier for everyone involved.
You may know from previous experience that illness often strikes quickly and when you least expect it. There may be a little bit of denial involved. Maybe you escaped the flu last year and hope the same will happen again this time around. Of course, it’s always okay to hope for the best, but I am here today to help you plan for the worst, just in case.
Before you can devise a strategy, you need to know what to actually plan for. Caring for sick family members is stressful. Having the right tools on hand is important for you to be able to know what to do and when to do it.
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BEFORE ANYONE GETS SICK
The absolute best time to start taking care of anyone, including yourself is long before illness ever hits your household. In my last post, I spoke about illness prevention strategies. Today we’ll cover how you can be as prepared as possible before illness strikes.
From prepping your house to having the proper equipment and over the counter medications as well as the right foods and liquids on hand, there is a lot you can prepare.
Nobody wants to have to scramble for cough syrup or fever-reducing medication in the middle of the night!
When sickness hits your household, things can go downhill quickly. Preparing beds with waterproof, spill-proof mattress protectors and pillow covers will save expensive mattresses and keep you from having to wash and dry pillows in the middle of the night.
Make sure you have extra blankets and a spare comforter for each sick family member. This is especially helpful should the stomach flu rear its ugly head! I speak from experience – many times over:(
Here are items everyone should have on hand:
- disposable gloves
- tissues in every bedroom
- moist wipes
- disposable emesis bags
- cooling gel pads or flexible ice packs
- reliable thermometer
- disposable face masks
- tracking sheet (free printable in resource library)
- extra set of sheets for each bed
- applesauce, crackers, clear juice, broth packets, popsicles
- fever reducer like Ibuprofen or Acetominophen, Cold and Flu preparation, cough medicine, throat lozenges, Immodium and or Pepto Bismol (consult your physician’s office for recommendations and dosages
Keep all supplies in a central location where they can be easily accessed. You may want to consider storing an extra set of sheets under each bed within easy reach. Always make sure any supplies and medications are not expired.
Note: Disposable face masks are currently very difficult to find and order online due to fears about the spread of the coronavirus worldwide. That is why I did not include a clickable link for them. You can find them at most drug stores as well as retailers like Walmart and Target.
WHEN TO DO WHAT
Chances are you are not a medical professional. Knowing which symptoms warrant a call to your doctor’s office is not always easy. Is that fever too high? Should I worry about fluid intake? When is it time to head to urgent care or the hospital? Most of the time, run of the mill cold and flu symptoms can be managed at home.
If you are not sure what to do, always err on the side of caution and contact your doctor. To help you the CDC has compiled very useful information any household should keep on hand. Here is the link to the CDC Flu Guide to Caring for Someone Sick at Home. Print it out and store it in your family binder or close to your medical supplies. It will help you take the guesswork out of what you should do and when.
To make your life easier, I created a handy illness tracking sheet to document important details your healthcare provider will want to know about when you call. Be sure to print one out for every family member who is sick. You can find it in my FREE Resource Library.
Begin tracking symptoms and temperature as soon as illness strikes. Fill out a separate sheet for each family member. If the sickness progresses or suddenly gets worse, you will want to have that information on hand quickly when you call the doctor’s office or in case you need to go to urgent care.
The more information you can provide, the easier it will be for your health care professionals to make an accurate diagnosis and determine a proper course of treatment.
You can become overwhelmed easily, especially if you are dealing with more than one sick family member at the same time. Sleepless nights that often go along with caring only make things worse.
Being tired and run down increases your own chances of becoming ill.
Continue following the recommendations for preventing the spread of illness as discussed in my post about making sure your family stays healthy.
Be sure to wear a mask to protect your face or have your sick family member wear a mask if they are able to tolerate it. This will limit the spread of infection through airborne transmission, which is one of the most common ways of spreading illness. If you have no masks on hand, at bare minimum protect your face with a thick cloth and instruct your sick family member to cough into a washcloth or their blanket. That is obviously not a perfect solution, but definitely better than none.
Always wear gloves when handling anything soiled. Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 30 seconds after removing gloves. Optional: apply hand sanitizer after washing hands. You can find my recipe for alcohol- free hand sanitizer here and in the Resource Library.
Provide plenty of clear liquids like diluted apple juice for your patient. Dehydration can become a major complication of any illness, but especially those that involve vomiting and diarrhea.
Signs and symptoms to watch for with dehydration may include, but are not limited to:
- not having to pee or dark-colored urine
- crying but no tears (especially for babies and children)
- very dry skin
- feeling faint or dizzy
- sunken eyes
- sleepiness, confusion
Contact your health care provider immediately if you notice any changes that may indicate dehydration. Intravenous fluids, which can only be administered in a clinic or hospital setting may be needed.
Refer to the above mentioned CDC guide for additional information.
With proper rest and care, most common illnesses will run their course within a few days. Don’t try to send anyone off to school or work until they have been completely fever-free and have not vomited or had diarrhea for a minimum of 24 hours.
Try to get rest while your sick family member is resting. You need all the strength you can get. You may want to consider having groceries delivered by a delivery service like Instacart or through Amazon. Check availability in your area.
Be sure to wash all bedding and anything else in hot water. Wipe down all surfaces with disinfectant. Replace toothbrushes. Restock any supplies and medications you may have depleted so you are ready when the next flu bug hits your household.
While I sincerely hope that you and your family will be spared from an illness during this and any flu season, I hope the information provided in this post will come in handy.
Much of what I wrote about today is derived from not only research on the topic but professional and personal experience. If you have any helpful tips to add please feel free to add them in the comment section.
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Wishing you and your family good health always!