DEVAL L. PATRICK
TIMOTHY P. MURRAY
JUDYANN BIGBY, M.D.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Executive Office of Health and Human Services
Department of Public Health
250 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02108-4619
Updated August 25, 2009
Staying Home with the Flu: Instructions for Those
Who Are Sick and Their Close Contacts
Dear Flu Sufferer,
You are suspected of having flu or have been diagnosed with flu. To help prevent the spread of flu virus to others,
the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) is asking you to stay at home until you have been free from
fever for at least 24 hours after your last dose of fever-reducing medication. Fever-reducing medications include
acetaminophen (like Tylenol or a store name) and ibuprofen (like Advil or Motrin or a store name). For most people
this will mean staying at home for about four days, but it could be longer.
During the period that you have symptoms, especially fever, it is possible for you to spread flu to those who have
close contact with you (for example, to someone living with or caring for you). Flu can be spread when an infected
person coughs or sneezes. It is also possible to become infected by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus,
and then touching your own nose or mouth.
To prevent the spread of flu while you are sick, please follow these guidelines:
• ALWAYS cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose (or cough
and sneeze into the inside of your elbow). Never cough in the direction of someone else. Throw out your
used tissues with your regular garbage.
• ALWAYS wash your hands with soap or water or use alcohol-based hand rubs after coughing or sneezing and
after throwing used tissues in the garbage.
• Limit contact with others; avoid close contact. People you live with should limit contact with you. They
should not touch their nose, face or eyes after contact with you without washing their hands or using an
alcohol-based rub. If possible, make one person (not someone who is pregnant) the main person who will
care for you while you’re sick. If possible, stay in a room separate from other people in the house.
• Clean all recently contaminated surfaces such as bedside tables, bathroom surfaces, doorknobs, and children’s
toys with a regular household cleaner. The person doing the cleaning should wash their hands after cleaning
the area. Dirty dishes and eating utensils should be washed in a dishwasher or by hand with warm water and
• Laundry can be washed in a regular washing machine with warm or cold water and detergent. Linens and
towels should also be tumble dried on a hot setting if possible. It is not necessary to separate your laundry
from other laundry.
• Stay at home until you have been free from fever for at least 24 hours after your last dose of fever-reducing
medication (like Tylenol, Advil or Motrin or a store brand).
INSTRUCTIONS FOR CLOSE CONTACTS (People living with or caring for someone with flu):
• Clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub frequently, and after every time
you come in contact with the sick person.
• Limit contact with the sick person; Limit contact with the sick person, especially while they have a fever and
are coughing and sneezing.
• Watch yourself closely for flu-like symptoms (fever and cough or sore throat) for 7 days after your last contact
with the sick person. If you get sick with fever, cough, or sore throat, stay at home and follow the guidelines
listed on page one.
• Sick people should not have visitors while they are sick with flu or a flu-like illness. If other people must enter
the home, they should avoid contact with the sick person.
• If you are washing the bed sheets and towels for the sick person, you should use regular laundry soap and
tumble dry on a hot setting if possible. Avoid holding laundry close to your body when you are carrying it,
and clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub after handling dirty laundry.
IF I AM SICK WITH THE FLU DO I NEED TO TAKE SPECIAL MEDICINE?
You should only take prescription medicine if your doctor prescribes it for you. For people with some medical
conditions, either Tamiflu™ or Relenza™ may be recommended. Ask your doctor to see if you need prescription
medicine. You should also rest, drink plenty of liquids, and take the medications that you would normally take to
treat your symptoms, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol or store brand) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil or store brand).
People who are under 18 years of age should NOT take aspirin or aspirin-containing products. This can
cause a rare serious illness called Reye Syndrome in young people with the flu.
WHAT ARE FEVER-REDUCING MEDICATIONS AND WHEN SHOULD I STOP TAKING THEM?
Fever-reducing medications are ones that contain acetaminophen (Tylenol or store brand) or ibuprofen (Motrin,
Advil or store brand). These medicines can be given to people who are sick with flu to help bring their fever down
and relieve their pain. As you begin to feel better you will probably not need fever-reducing medicines and will stop
taking them. You should stay at home until you have been free from fever for at least 24 hours after the last dose of
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY SYMPTOMS GET WORSE?
If your symptoms get worse, especially if you begin to have trouble breathing, you should call your doctor or seek
help at an emergency room. When going to the doctor’s office or the emergency room, you should avoid taking
public transportation (subway or bus) if possible.
If you go to your doctor, please contact the doctor’s office before you leave home and tell them you have flu-like
symptoms. When you arrive at the doctor’s office, go straight to the receptionist or nurse so that you can be put in
a private room while you wait. You may be asked to wear a mask and you should sit away from others as much as
possible. If you call an ambulance, let the operator know that you have flu-like symptoms, and also let the
ambulance crew know when they arrive.
SHOULD PEOPLE I LIVE WITH TAKE MEDICINE TO PREVENT FLU?
DPH recommends preventive medication for household or other close contacts who have health conditions that may
put them at risk for more severe illness. To find out whether preventive medication, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu®)
is recommended, talk to your doctor.
WHERE TO GET MORE INFORMATION
Talk to your doctor; call 211; or visit the following websites that have information about flu: www.mass.gov/dph/flu
and www.cdc.gov . Especially recommended is the DPH booklet “Flu What You Can Do: Caring for People at
Home” available in nine languages.