What You Can Do for a Friend With the Flu

If you have ever had the flu, you know how miserable it can be. So, when a friend or family member gets sick, you may want or need to help them. There's plenty you can do, from getting them supplies they may need to ease flu symptoms to taking over daily chores so they don't have to overexert themselves.

These starter ideas are not just nice things to do for someone when they are sick with the flu. Some can give them the ability to rest and focus on their recovery, and others can actually help them feel as they ride things out.

Protect Yourself

Getting the annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu, but know that it is not 100% effective. As you care for others, be sure to protect yourself from infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. 

Set Up a "Sick" Room

Woman sick in bed

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Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that causes fever, body aches, congestion, and coughing. It is spread mainly through infected droplets that are expelled when a sick person sneezes or coughs. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or inhaled into the lungs. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

When someone in a home has the flu, they may want to protect everyone from getting what they have—but not have the energy to take measures that help with that.

Help set up a sick room to keep the person separate from the rest of the family. Stock it with:

  • Easily accessible tissues
  • A trash can with a lid and a plastic bag liner
  • Alcohol-based hand rub
  • A cup with a straw or squeeze bottle to keep hydrated
  • A humidifier
  • Face masks for them to wear when they leave the room or are in contact with others

Choose one person in the house to be the caregiver and avoid letting other people enter the sick room. If possible, open a window or use a fan to keep fresh air circulating. 

Clean the sick room daily using a disinfecting cleaner or soap and water on hard surfaces, such as doorknobs, bedside tables, bathroom sinks, toilets, countertops, phones, and toys. Bed linens and towels should be washed using regular detergent and dried on a hot dryer setting. Be sure to wash your hands immediately after cleaning the room or touching dirty laundry.

Drive Them to the Doctor

Woman entering address in GPS

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If your friend is sick with the flu and the symptoms just started, they may benefit from antiviral medications to help lessen symptoms and shorten the duration of their illness. But it's highly unlikely that they feel focussed enough to drive.

Offer to take your friend to the doctor so they can get appropriate care. Try to keep your distance and avoid touching the same surfaces. You may want to disinfect your car afterward and be sure to wash your hands after being in contact.

Offer to Pick Up Medications

Woman shopping at drugstore

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Going to the pharmacy is unpleasant for someone who is sick, but it also puts other customers at risk.

Instead of telling your friend or family member to "let me know if you need anything"—because, honestly, few people will actually do that—ask if you can purchase and deliver any medicine for them. If they don't know which medications might help flu symptoms, you can help them figure that out too.

Bring Chicken Soup

Chicken noodle soup

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Believe it or not, that chicken soup your mom used to give you when you were sick actually helps.

The steam of the hot soup can help keep sinuses open, the extra fluids help with hydration, and some studies have even shown that the soup itself may help inhibit some cold and flu symptoms.

Buy Some Groceries

Man buying groceries

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Likewise, offer to pick up groceries and other basics they may need. Some items you may want to throw in your cart, even if they don't specifically ask for them:

  • Sports drinks, which can restore fluids
  • Crackers
  • Soup
  • Tissues

Call ahead to let them know when you will be dropping off the groceries. If possible, try to leave bags on the porch instead of entering the home, and don't stay for a visit.

Offer to Watch Their Kids or Pets

Man walking a dog

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Offering to watch someone's kids or pets when the flu strikes can be a lifesaver. It is extremely difficult to try to take care of others when you are sick and nearly impossible when you have influenza.

Having kids come over to your house for a few hours or offering to take their dog on its daily walks can allow time and space for some much-needed rest.

Note: While pets can't give you the flu, kids who are infected but who haven't yet shown symptoms can. Make sure you take precautions to protect yourself.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu: Caring for someone sick at home. Updated December 2010.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What you should know about flu antiviral drugs. Updated April 22, 2019.

  3. Babizhayev MA, Deyev AI, Yegorov YE. Non-hydrolyzed in digestive tract and blood natural L-carnosine peptide (“bioactivated Jewish penicillin”) as a panacea of tomorrow for various flu ailments: signaling activity attenuating nitric oxide (NO) production, cytostasis, and NO-dependent inhibition of influenza virus replication in macrophages in the human body infected with the virulent swine influenza A (H1N1) virusJournal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology. 2013;24(1):1-26. doi:10.1515/jbcpp-2012-0037.