Military Life November 5, 2019

10 Tips to Help Veterans Fight the Flu at Home

Erika S., Editor in Chief

If your family member gets the flu, there are things you can do to help him or her fight the flu and feel better. These tips can also help keep others in the family from getting the flu.

Fight the Flu 101

1. First, your Veteran needs to stay home and rest. Try to give your family member his or her own room, if possible. In the “sick” room, have the following items:

  • Tissues
  • Trash can with lid and lined with a plastic bag
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Thermometer
  • Humidifier to add moisture to the air and help ease breathing

2. Your Veteran needs to drink plenty of water and other clear liquids, such as juice, to avoid dehydration (no alcohol). Keep a cooler or pitcher with ice and drinks in the sick room. Also have straws or a squeeze bottle on hand to help with drinking in bed.

3. Treat his or her fever and cough with medicine you can buy at the store. For example, acetaminophen can reduce fever and also help with aches and pains. Write down when any medicine is taken and when the next dose is needed. Store all medicines out of reach of children. If you have no young children at home, keep medicines in the sick room.

4. Avoid close contact with your sick family member. In addition, ask that your Veteran always cover his or her mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then throw the tissue out. Also, he or she should wear a face mask whenever leaving the sick room or when around other people.

5. Wash your hands often and right away after any contact with your sick family member or his or her things (e.g., tissues, drinking glass) using soap and water.

6. If you have more than one bathroom, have the Veteran use one bathroom and well family members use the other.

7. Make sure he or she doesn’t share drinking glasses or towels with well family members.

8. If you can, choose only one caregiver to tend to the Veteran. Try to avoid having other family members enter the sick room. Any visitors should stay at least six feet away from the sick family member.

9. Try to keep the air in the sick room clean by opening a window, if possible, or using a fan to keep fresh air flowing.

10. Clean the sick room every day.

  • Clean hard surfaces using water and dish soap or household cleaners that kill germs. Hard surfaces include doorknobs, bedside tables, phones and toys.
  • Wash sheets and towels and tumble dry on a hot dryer setting. It’s OK to wash the Veteran’s bedding with other laundry. Do hold the sheets away from your face and wash your hands right after you toss them into the machine.

QuickTip: It takes at least two weeks for your flu shot to start working, so try to get it in the fall as soon as it’s available. Veterans enrolled in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care can get a flu shot at their nearest VA health care facility or at their local Walgreens.

When to Call the Doctor

If your family member gets very sick or is pregnant or has a medical condition that puts him or her at a higher risk of flu complications (e.g., asthma), call the doctor. Prescription antivirals are used to treat the flu. They can help your family member feel better more quickly. Remind the doctor if your Veteran is taking cancer-fighting drugs or other medication that can make it hard for his or her body to fight the flu.

My Veteran got the shot and the flu?

If your Veteran got the flu after being vaccinated, it’s possible that he or she may have been exposed to the virus before the flu shot took effect. It may also be due to a weakened immune system or other illness that causes his or her body to take longer to make antibodies and build immunity. Or, there’s a chance that the vaccine isn’t a good match for the flu viruses that are spreading this season.

After recovering from the flu, to help your Veteran stay well and make healthy choices, see the QuickSeries®guides: Healthy Living: Today and for Life and Whole Living: Your Personal Wellness Guide

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