Sick woman lying in bed with cold and flu. In front of her is someone comforting her with tea and lemon


In sickness and in health

Coping with family illness and getting your loved ones on the road to recovery

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, love is certainly in the air. But just how far does love go for those caring for their loved ones who are suffering from minor ailments and illnesses? A long way it seems, according to research which has shown that kindness and empathy can play a role in healing a common cold. When being looked after by someone who shows kindness, people who are on the brink of suffering a cold are less likely develop a full-blown bout of the sniffles, experience less severe symptoms and have the virus clear up faster.

Not only does caring for your loved ones with kindness help them get better quicker, it also benefits your own health. Research shows that for the person showing compassion it can help reduce stress, boost the immune system and help reduce negative emotions such as anxiety, anger and depression.

Caring for your loved ones

When caring for your partner or children who are suffering from colds or flu, you need to make sure they are looked after, but without getting sick yourself – after all you’ll be no help to them if you are ill too.

Here are some top tips for coping with family illness and nursing your loved ones back to health:

Young woman sleeping well in bed hugging soft white pillow

1. Rest

Make sure they are comfortable and get plenty of rest, including staying away from work if needed. Getting enough sleep and rest gives the body time to heal. The average number of sick days taken from work is at an all-time low, falling to 4.1 days in 2017 from 7.2 in 1993, indicating that people are ‘soldiering on’ rather than taking the time off they need to rest and get themselves better.

Cute little girl and her beautiful mother are smiling while drinking milk

2. Stay hydrated

Ensure they get enough fluids to keep hydrated. Good old water will do the trick but can be unappealing. So, mix it up with other drinks such as milk, which is great for hydration with the added benefits of calcium and vitamin D. If you’re a fan of hot drinks, why not try Echinacea tea? Studies have shown that drinking echinacea tea at the first signs of the cold or flu can reduce the severity and duration of your sickness.

Happy Blond Girl Sitting on Bed with a Pink Knitted Giant Plaid Blanket

3. Keep warm

Make sure they stay warm and cosy. Opening a window to get a little fresh air may help but make sure they don’t get chilly. However, if they seem to be hot and clammy and you think they might have a fever, be careful not to bundle them up in too many clothes or blankets. You can check if they have a high temperature easily with a digital thermometer.

Little boy with a humidifier in the background

4. Add moisture to the air

Using a warm air humidifier in the room can help to relieve congestion and a sore throat by keeping the nasal, throat and lung passages moisturised. A recent study has also found that maintaining an indoor humidity level of 40-60% can reduce the survival of flu viruses on surfaces and in the air.

Keeping yourself well

These simple steps will help keep you fit and healthy while getting your loved ones back on the road to recovery:

View from above of a woman’s hands covered in soap under a tap

1. Wash your hands

Practise good hygiene and make sure you wash your hands regularly, especially when you have been in close contact with your patient or things they have touched. Keep a bottle of hand sanitiser nearby so you can easily disinfect your hands. 80% of all infectious diseases are transmitted by touch, however washing your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer has been proven to be highly effective in reducing flu germs on the hands. Make sure you wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds and choose a hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol content for the best results.

Young mother and her little daughter playing with pillows on bed

2. Sharing isn’t caring

Don’t be tempted to share anything your sick loved one has used, such as cups, plates, towels or pillow cases. The flu virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours and on porous surfaces for around eight to twelve hours so steering clear of contaminated objects will help stop the spread of germs.

Close up of a man in bed blowing his nose, surrounded by crumpled tissues

3. Throw tissues away

Sneezing can shoot germs over ten feet across the room so the best way to catch a sneeze is in a tissue. But leaving tissues used for blowing noses and sneezing into can continue to spread germs around the house, so be sure to make sure they are thrown away quickly and make sure you wash your hands afterwards.

Woman opening the window to let air in

4. Get fresh air

Open up the windows to let some fresh air circulate through your rooms and the house. This will move the germs out and help protect you from picking up the illness too.

With adults picking up an average of two to four colds per year and children six to ten, it’s more than likely that someone in your household will succumb to a bout of the sniffles. Looking after them with love and kindness really can be the best medicine to get them back to full health in no time.