Being Well

5 Cold and Flu Season Tips for Cancer Caregivers

Use these cold and flu season tips to navigate a season full of visitors, germs and stress.

Winter winds are blowing and germs are circling, which means cold and flu season has also arrived. If you’re caring for someone with cancer, keeping yourself healthy is crucial in order to avoid complications for your loved one going through chemo treatments or radiation. Take a look at a few of these cold and flu season tips that will reduce your chances of getting sick this winter.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with cancer are at an increased risk for complications due to the flu. It’s important to take steps to keep your loved one healthy, but it’s also crucial to make sure you’re not getting sick, either. After all, if you’re sick, you’ll not only introduce your loved one to harmful germs, but you won’t be able to take care of them.

1. Consider a Flu Shot

While there isn’t a shot to keep the common cold at bay, there is a vaccine for the flu. Talk to your primary care physician about the benefits, and possible risks, of the flu vaccine. It could save you from getting the flu, an illness that can lead to fever, difficulty breathing and aches for up to two weeks.

2. Practice Good Hygiene

Wash your hands often throughout your day at home and at work. While antibacterial gel or foam can work in a pinch, water and soap are the best defense against germs you pick up from objects you touch during your day.

The World Health Organization recommends you rub your hands together for 20 to 30 seconds when using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and 40 to 60 seconds when washing hands with soap and water.

3. Eat, Drink and Sleep Well

Your body needs all the energy it can get to fight off germs and prevent illnesses. Make a conscious effort to take care of yourself by eating nutritious foods, drinking plenty of water and sleeping as much as you can. If you find it impossible to take care of yourself in these ways during this season, ask for help. Respite caregivers can come to your home while you sneak off for a quick nap, and home delivery food options can bring nutritious food right to your door.

4. Establish Rules for Visitors

Take time to alter your visiting hours and rules this season. Encourage visitors to stay at home if they have a runny nose, cough or fever. Ask everyone to wash their hands upon entering your home, and don’t be afraid to wear a face mask to decrease the chance of airborne germs finding their way to your body.

5. If You Get Sick

Even with the best hand washing and nutritional support, you may still catch a cold or the flu this season. If this is the case, reach out to other friends and family who can help out with your usual caregiving tasks. Ask for meal drop-offs or for friends to drive your loved one to treatments.

Most importantly, resist the urge to be near your loved one. Instead, make a quarantine area of your home so that you can reduce the spread of germs to your loved one. Avoid sleeping together or even using the same bathroom (if possible), and once you’re feeling better, give the entire home a serious cleaning to eliminate the threat of lurking germs.

Use these cold and flu season tips to navigate a season full of visitors, germs and stress. With a bit of good habits, and a dash of luck, you’ll ensure your home stays healthy this year.

A great doctor is one who hears your concerns and provides solutions. The staff at UVA Cancer Center is always available to lend a helping hand.

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Haley Burress
Haley Burress