With the H1N1 (swine flu) virus spreading and seasonal flu season approaching, the American Red Cross is offering important tips for people who are sick or are taking care of someone with the flu.

“It’s important to know what to do to protect yourself and others when you are taking care of someone who has the flu,” said Sharon Stanley, chief nurse and director of American Red Cross Disaster Health and Mental Health Services.

The Red Cross recommends the following when caring for someone who has the flu:

– Disinfect door knobs, switches, handles, toys and other commonly handled surfaces;

– Use detergent and very hot water to do dishes and wash clothes, as well as wash hands thoroughly after handling dirty laundry; and

– Designate only one adult as the caregiver and ensure this person is not at an increased risk of severe illness from either flu.

“While they are taking care of people who are sick, caregivers should also remember to take care of themselves and their own needs,” said John Pacheco, executive director of the Santa Monica Red Cross chapter. “The best way to make sure you will be able to help ill family members is to stay healthy yourself. You can do that by practicing healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep and rest.”

The following steps are recommended for those who become ill:

– Stay in a room separate from common areas of the home and avoid contact with others as much as possible;

– Stay at home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone without having to use fever-reducing medicine;

– Get a lot of rest and drink plenty of fluids;

– Consider wearing a facemask when sharing common spaces with household members; and

– Contact a health care provider about whether to take antiviral medication, or if fever persists, whether antibiotics are needed.

H1N1 is affecting many young adults and children, but the majority of people sick with H1N1 do not need testing or professional attention, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However if someone is severely ill and is pregnant, has trouble breathing or has an underlying condition like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, it is important to seek prompt medical treatment within the first 48 hours that symptoms develop.

For more information on the flu, www.redcross.org/, www.flu.gov/, or contact the American Red Cross of Santa Monica at ww.redcrossofsantamonica.org/, or (310) 394-3773.