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Recommendations for the Home

Influenza (flu) is a sudden, respiratory disease that spreads easily. It is characterized by the sudden onset of fever, body aches, sore throat, headache, and cough, and, in children, can also cause diarrhea and vomiting.

  • Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as the current season's vaccines are available.
  • Any family member suspected of having the flu should not attend work, school, or daycare. Ill family members should be encouraged to rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Wash hands frequently by using soap and warm water for 15-20 seconds (this is generally the amount of time it takes to sing the ABC's). Dry hands with a disposable towel if possible. Towels should be changed frequently. Young children should be instructed and assisted to make sure they wash their hands properly. Bathrooms should be checked regularly to ensure that soap and towels are available for your family's use.
  • Flu can be spread by coughs or sneezes. Family members should cover their mouths when coughing and use a disposable tissue when sneezing or blowing their noses. Tissues should be thrown away immediately, and hands should be then washed. (If you cannot wash hands, rub hands with an alcohol hand gel.) Make sure tissues are available in the home and cars for runny noses and sneezing.
  • Spread of the flu in homes is likely. Families should avoid sharing of saliva by not sharing glasses, forks, spoons, toothbrushes, etc.
  • Always follow label directions on cleaning products and disinfectants.  Wash surfaces with a general household cleaner to remove germs.  Rinse with water and follow with an EPA-registered disinfectant to kill germs.  Read the label to make sure it states that EPA has approved the product for effectiveness against influenza A virus.
  • If an EPA-registered disinfectant is not available, use a fresh chlorine bleach solution. To make and use the solution:
    • Add 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 quart (4 cups) of water.  For a larger supply of disinfectant, add 1/4 cup of bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) of water.
    • Apply the solution to the surface with a cloth.
    • Let it stand for three to five minutes.
    • Rinse the surface with clean water.
  • If a surface is not visibly dirty, you can clean it with an EPA-registered product that both cleans (removes germs) and disinfects (kills germs) instead. Be sure to read the label directions carefully, as there may be a separate procedure for using the product as a cleaner or as a disinfectant.  Disinfection usually requires the product to remain on the surface for a certain period of time.
  • Use disinfecting wipes on electronic items that are touched often, such as phones and computers.  Pay close attention to the directions for using disinfecting wipes.  It may be necessary to use more than one wipe to keep the surface wet for the stated length of contact time.  Make sure that the electronics can withstand the use of liquids for cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Routinely wash eating utensils in a dishwasher or by hand with soap and water.  Wash and dry bed sheets, towels, and other linens as you normally do with household laundry soap, according to the fabric labels. Eating utensils, dishes, and linens used by sick persons do not need to be cleaned separately, but they should not be shared unless they've been washed thoroughly. Wash your hands with soap and water after handling soiled dishes and laundry items.
  • When caring for a family member who is ill, hands should be washed immediately after helping them.
  • If family members get the flu, especially if they are elderly or have other medical problems, you may wish to contact their physicians immediately. Their doctors may give antiviral drugs, which may decrease the spread and severity of the diseases. However, taking these drugs does not mean you do not need to get the flu shot.