Flu prevention when it’s already in your home

Should you be taking an antiviral medication like Tamiflu to prevent the flu when your loved one is sick?

It’s hard to watch a child or spouse suffer through flu symptoms like fever, aches, chills and headache. While you may be happy to bring your loved one soup or pick up the tissues, you may also be wondering how you’re going to stay well surrounded by all those germs.

Maybe he or she is on Tamiflu, an antiviral medication, to treat the flu. Should you be taking medicine to prevent catching the flu — or to get an early start on fighting it off — since you’re likely to be exposed to the flu while your loved one is sick?

Should I take an antiviral like Tamiflu to prevent the flu?

Not necessarily, according to Rachel Alexander, APRN, nurse practitioner with Norton eCare.

“In general, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend taking an antiviral like Tamiflu for seasonal or pre-exposure prevention,” Rachel said. “However, antiviral medications can be considered to prevent the flu in certain situations.”

According to Rachel, a health care provider may consider prescribing an antiviral medication if a person is exposed to someone with the flu and:

  • Is at high risk for complications from the flu and is exposed to the flu during the first two weeks following a flu vaccination
  • Is at high risk for complications from the flu and cannot receive the flu vaccine
  • Has severe immune deficiencies or may not respond to the flu vaccine, such as people receiving immunosuppressive medications

“Patients who do receive an antiviral medication in those situations should seek medical attention as soon as they develop a respiratory illness that could be the flu,” Rachel said.

Preventing the flu when caring for people with the flu

If you’re not at high risk for developing complications from the flu, how do you stay well when caring for someone with the flu? Rachel has some recommendations.

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  • Avoid being face to face with the sick person. If possible, it is best to spend the least amount of time in close contact with a sick person.
  • When holding sick children, place their chin on your shoulder so they will not cough in your face.
  • Wash your hands often and as soon as you’ve had contact with the sick person, and after handling their tissues or laundry.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

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