Flu, Dengue: “How to take best care of a sick family member!”

4 min read

“Care giving is devotion, and devotion without expectations is love at it’s purest!”

This rainy season, us mumbaities are facing the danger of catching Swine Flu, Dengue, and Typhoid more than ever; and having had a dengue scare myself thought it will be timely to write about how to take best care of a sick family member.

5 important tips

Number 1


Take Care of Hygiene by Changing Sheets everyday!

We all know the importance of hygiene and cleanliness, so without further wait, here is your ‘to do list’

  • Change bed sheets, pillow covers every day and blankets every other day! This will not only keep the patients’ bed clean and stop any pathogens from flourishing underneath but will also make them feel more fresh and energetic. Plus who likes the smell of sweaty sheets anyways? I know I don’t!
  • Extensive House Cleaning: This involves not just mopping and doing laundry and dusting, but also getting rid of unnecessary clutter, trimming of your plants, and checking for and cleaning away any possible mosquito breeding sites.
  • Bathing: Your loved one may be feverish, getting frequent chills and may not be in the mood to take a bath (for days even!). But it is not OK to leave them be dirty. Built up of sweat, sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria on the skin of an ill person will do no good. Encourage them to take a quick bath with warm water at least every 1–2 days. And If they are too worn out to do so, you can always opt out for giving them a sponge bath!

Number 2.


Clear Soups are Best to stimulate weakened appetite

Having worked as a clinical dietitian for 3+ years, I can not assert the importance of nutrition during illnesses enough!

Be it Dengue, malaria, any kind of flu or even a minor episode of stomach pain or food poisoning, first thing goes out of the window is the patients’ appetite. And to make the things worse, they might even get nauseous just by mere smell or thought of the food!

cycle of disease and malnutrition

No food in, leads to weakness, which leads to lowered disease fighting capacity, leads to slower recovery, which again leads back to lower appetite. Its a vicious cycle!

To break this vicious cycle, here is your ‘to do list’

  • Make Sure They Drink Enough Fluids: Especially if they are feverish, there is a great risk of dehydration. So make sure they drink at least 8 glasses of fluids (water, teas, coconut water, milk, fruit juices etc.) throughout the day.
  • Do Not Force: They might not be hungry, so do not force; wait for their appetite to come back. In the mean time keep offering clear liquids like rice water, coconut water, clear soups. These will help get their digestive system back in the gear.
  • Comfort Foods: “Eat daal chawal, eat daal khichdi, drink milk and repeat” can get monotonous! Plus if feverish, they tend to lose taste sensation as well. So it is ok to cook something sweet/savory that they absolutely love for a change (though it may not be allowed!). As a clinical dietitian, no matter how ever many dietary restriction my patient might be on, if they are not eating at all then nothing matters more to me than them eating (anything) and gaining their strength back! But be careful with this option and do offer these treats only in a moderation just to avoid overeating, nausea and vomiting!
  • Fruits: Ever thought why do well wishers always bring fruits when coming to see an ill person? Well this tradition is certainly on point. Fruits are sweet, hydrating, refreshing, and full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that will aid in their recovery. Just slice one up and offer it to them gently (no pressure!) 🙂

Remember, food is never just food! It is energy for your cells, hydration for your skin, and fuel for your recovery.

Number 3.


Rest is the Best for Faster Recovery

Resting is an extremely important component of timely recovery, other two being nutrition and medicine!

On top of 8 hours of regular sleep, your loved one might need bouts of naps and complete bed rest throughout the day. So what can you do to facilitate it?

  • Keep the Noise Levels Down: TV, Radio, excessive chatter, try and keep it minimal.
  • Have visiting hours of the day fixed and inform visitor of the same: Sometimes most harmless and well intentioned acts too can cause inconvenience. Going to visit an ill friend or family member is one such act. Too many untimely or impromptu visits might interfere with patients’ rest and recovery. So have the timings set and inform friends and family who wish to come visit of those preferred timings!

Number 4.


  • Make sure you keep their room well ventilated but it’s not too hot or too cold!
  • Also make sure that their skin is not too dry or too damp (apply powder or lotion as needed!).
  • Switch the lights off and pull the curtains together during resting time
  • And during awake time, do pull the curtains back, let the light in.
  • Also burn some incense/lit some candles, put a nice picture frame in the room or put a flower pot.

Trust me when I say this, no one loves the stuffy smell of a sick person’s room! Not you, not the visitors and most importantly not the sick people themselves (after all they are the ones who are spending most of their time in there), so make it look good and more importantly smell good!

Number 5.

Quality Time

Sharing is Caring. Share some quality time with your sick loved one!

Be it your child, your spouse, or your parent, an ill person always feels like they are going through this pain and experience alone, and that “no one understands!”

I know it is heartbreaking to watch your loved ones in pain, but still linger around. You can read them a story, watch their favorite movie together, cuddle with them (not if the disease is infectious!), talk, sing a lullaby or do absolutely none of these and just be there with them!

Chances are they might tell you to not touch them because of the body pain or they might ask you to leave them alone because they want to rest. In these circumstances, do respect their wishes but don’t completely abandon them. Use reassuring words like “I love you”, “I care for you”, “I understand that you are going through a lot of pain”. And/or use reassuring gestures like fleeting hugs, meningful touches, giving them massages etc.

Having this kind of psycosocial support is proven to aid with healing.

Bonus: It will also strenghten your bond 🙂

For starters, try and not get sick. Read –

“5 tips & 5 foods to keep the Doctor away this monsoon!”

-But if you or any of your loved ones do catch one of these illnesses, hope these 5 tips will be of some help to you!

Take Care.

Soniya Nikam, MS, RD.

Soniya Nikam, MS, RD.

She is a Registered Dietitian who does not believe in dieting; She has a Master's Degree in Nutrition but she is not your "I know it all Nutrition Guru!"; She loves food but loves talking about food even more. Her articles are a direct reflection of her personal quest where nutrition science meets real life! Oh, and she is owned by a 3 m.o. naughty kitten :)

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