It starts harmlessly enough. Someone comes home from school or work feeling a little worn down with a case of the sniffles. But by bedtime, they have a full-blown fever, chills, nausea and the feeling they have been hit by a truck. They probably have the flu.

Now what? How can you keep the rest of the family from catching the flu, especially kids?

A great way to prevent spreading the flu is to wash your hands frequently. Encourage others to do the same. Here are a few other ideas.

1. Keep the sick person’s personal items separate from everyone else's. Don’t share pens, spoons, glasses, plates, phones, towels, etc. Move their tooth brush and towels away from everyone else’s.

2. Isolate the sick person in a separate room. Typically, this would be their bedroom, but if the bedroom is shared, a sofa in another room will do the trick.

3. Assign one person to be the primary caregiver for the sick person. Try to delegate it to the family member who is least likely to get sick. Have the caregiver wear a mask when they are in close contact to the ill family member. Make sure the caregiver washes their hands every time they leave the room.

4. Clean surfaces with a household disinfectant. This includes items such as doorknobs, phones, light switches and remote controls. Use a disinfectant that kills flu germs or try a solution of one-half cup of bleach per gallon of water. Flu germs can live on a hard surface for up to 24 hours.

5. Be diligent about every family member washing their hands frequently.

6. Check to see if your loved one needs medical care. You can check with your primary care provider or virtually with a phone, video or e-visit.

7. Ask for flu medications for those who truly need them. Antiviral drugs like Tamiflu are recommended for those 3 months and older who are at high-risk for serious complications from the flu - such as those with a depressed immune system. Otherwise healthy people do not need antivirals, nor are they recommended as way of trying to prevent the spread of flu to others.

Get vaccinated. Encourage your loved ones to do the same. While the above steps can help lessen the chances of spreading flu, it’s a lot easier avoiding it in the first place.

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Erica Wallace, DO, practices Family Medicine at LeBauer Healthcare at Horse Pen Creek.

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