tea, soup, sympathy and what else?
February 28, 2008 12:52 PM   Subscribe

It's official: my girlfriend has the flu. Give me ideas of things I can do to help and comfort her while we ride this thing out.
posted by palegirl to Human Relations (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Tea, soup, and sympathy.
posted by Krrrlson at 12:53 PM on February 28, 2008

buy her a box of tissues
take out her trash
put a couple of trashbins around her bed or wherever she'll be using tissues and change them frequently
wash her dishes
wash her bedsheets
don't tell her she's "beautiful" unless she actually tries to put on clothes and get out of bed
rent a few of her favorite tv shows on dvd
change her cat's litterbox / take her dog out for a walk
buy her some OJ
don't call her "gross"
posted by Stynxno at 12:57 PM on February 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

Let her sleep; take care of things for her so she doesn't have to move. Feed her cat. Play with / wear out her dog (or cat). Do her laundry. Change her sheets -- ahhhh, clean sheets -- and wait until she's in the bath or shower to do it. Yes, you'd have to launder the old sheets. Pick up her mail - don't make her go outside.

A humidifier is a godsend (try to find one that's easy to refill). Last time I was really sick, my fiance went and bought the softest (unscented) tissues he could find, which I thought was sweet.
posted by amtho at 1:00 PM on February 28, 2008

If by flu, you mean she has tested positive for influenza, consider asking your doctor about Tamiflu. Available both as a mist and a pill, taken within a day or two (at the most) of getting sick, Tamiflu is supposed to dramatically decrease the duration and intensity of symptoms. She'll still feel horrible, but it might start getting better in 1-2 days. It is only effective if she actually has influenza, not just a cold, however. Hope you're insured, because when my doc prescribed it last week it cost $129 at the pharmacy for a 5 day course of 10 pills.

Also drugwise, make sure she is taking Aspirin every 5 hours or so; it will make a dramatic impact on the yucky symptoms she's feeling.

If you're being the nice doting partner, why not download/rent a series that you both have been intending to watch on tv, tuck her into bed, and have a tv marathon? When I had the flu last week I was so sick I couldn't even read a book, but between 18 hour bouts of sleeping I did manage to watch the first season of Dexter (which was awesome btw).

I totally was unable to do anything that involved my brain more than that, so I won't make any other activity suggestions- I mostly watched tv and slept.

Push fluids- you might go to the grocery store and load up on stuff she's found tasty in the past. I kept waking up and finding my mouth so dry I couldn't swallow, but didn't want sweet drinks. I found the tart taste of grapefruit 100% juice really refreshing and drank ~2 gallons of the stuff. Squeeze fresh o.j. or lemonade and help her load up on the vitamin C!

Why not get some nice bubble bath and take a few baths with her? This will help with the chills, muscle aches, and other annoying symptoms.

If she's having chills/sweats like I did, keeping a towel or two by the bed is another good idea. Every morning, I'd invariably soak the sheets with sweat while simultaneously feeling so cold that I wanted to pile on more blankets. My partner laid a towel down over the sweaty sheets and used a second towel to towel the sweat off my arms, torso, and neck, and I was able to go back to sleep comfortably.

Hope she feels better soon!
posted by arnicae at 1:03 PM on February 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

If she has a sinus headache, you might provide her with cool/cold or hot compresses, whichever she prefers, to put against her fevered brow.

Seriously - this feels good.
posted by amtho at 1:05 PM on February 28, 2008

Provided your girlfriend is eating,: If you know any good soup recipes and your girlfriend doesn't have the coming-out-of-every-hole flu, you should make some. Hot, homemade soup is a great comfort food.

My mom used to cook Filipino arroz caldo when I was sick. Really really good.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 1:07 PM on February 28, 2008

If she's having trouble sleeping or can't get comfortable due to aches or sinus-y-ness, volunteer your services as a big poseable pillow.

Massages! Foot, hand, neck & head.

Constant supply of hot tea in a variety of flavors.
posted by hippugeek at 1:10 PM on February 28, 2008

posted by Dizzy at 1:11 PM on February 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Make sure you pratice appropriate hygiene such that you don't catch it -- you won't be able to do her much good if you're flattened by flu, too.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:13 PM on February 28, 2008

She's on her way home from work right now, where she reports she's been throwing up. Everyone we know has had this flu over the past couple of weeks and she's been coming down, down, down with it all week -- here it is! I've got the bed made up with a heating pad by her feet, and the laundry going, and she's stopping to pick up soup on her way home. DVD player all ready to go with her favorite show. I appreciate all the suggestions, please keep them coming.

The kettle's on for tea.

POOR EVERYBODY! I figure I've been exposed to what she's got by now, so I'm not going to try to avoid contact -- is this misguided? I just HATE IT when I'm sick and people say things like "don't breathe on me!"
posted by palegirl at 1:17 PM on February 28, 2008

chicken soup.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:27 PM on February 28, 2008

Be extra quiet. Everything seems louder when you're sick.
posted by dpx.mfx at 1:40 PM on February 28, 2008

Palegirl- for you, take vitamin C and any other immune boosters you might have around the house, stay super-hydrated, wash your hands frequently, try not to touch your face as much as possible, and other than that, try not to worry about getting sick. You might get it regardless of whatever you do, but might stave it off by taking care of yourself as well as her.
posted by arnicae at 2:08 PM on February 28, 2008

In addition to tea, soup, and juice, a variety of (non-caffeinated) soda or other drinks might cheer her up and give you a break between pots of tea. When I'm sick I love ginger ale, Sprite, and Fresca, especially mixed with grapefruit juice, as special treats. Maybe even something shmancier like Orangina or Izze, too. The more fluids you have around, the more interesting it is to drink them.

If she's got the energy to read, bringing over some books might be a good idea whether from the store, the library, or your personal collection (unless you're living together, in which case she's seen all your books). Or perhaps magazines, since they require less prolonged attention.

A good rule of thumb is to get her whatever she asks, and then a little more. Like, if you're going to the store and she just asks for a can of Campbell's chicken noodle, get a can of chicken noodle and a can of curly noodle or chicken and stars. People sometimes downplay their wants/needs when they get sick.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:12 PM on February 28, 2008

The best thing for blowing your nose when you are sick is this tissue because it has aloe and e in it, preventing your nose from chapping. Also, if you have an aloe plant or aloe vera gel it's great to rub around her nose and upper lip to keep from drying / cracking.

This is going to sound weird, but if she's vomiting a lot, a pallet on the floor of the bathroom goes a long way. Even just putting down a comforter on the floor is better than nothing. Bathroom floors are cold/icky.

Kudos for being an excellent and loving girlfriend!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:24 PM on February 28, 2008

Don't assume that you'll get the flu; be careful not to be exposed too much. The less sick you are, the better you can take care of her.

Prepare things so that if you are both sick, it's not so bad: make a couple of big pots of soup, stock the kitchen with broth packets/cubes, clean house so that the inevitable decline if you are both sick doesn't carry you too far downhill. Set up a reservoir of reading/watching media.

If she's throwing up: invest in some saltines and/or water crackers (preferable without black pepper or other seasonings). Jell-o or vegan gel dessert might be good. Lots of good liquid refreshment (even refrigerated water might be good), mineral water (fizzy or not), fruit juice. V-8 can be good - but *it's not a clear liquid*, so wait until she's feeling a little better.

Have a thermometer handy & cleaned.
posted by amtho at 2:35 PM on February 28, 2008

Oh, and try not to wear yourself out too much; that might make you get sicker sooner.
posted by amtho at 2:38 PM on February 28, 2008

Vomiting is not a symptom of influenza. She likely has gastroenteritis, which is colloquially known as "stomach flu," but which is not a form of "the flu." Medications to treat flu, such as Tamiflu, will not work.

Vomiting often results in dehydration. Make sure she's getting enough fluids. Clear liquids are best. Pedialyte is often recommended, even for adults, because it contains electrolytes in the proper proportions. If she feels up to eating in the next few days, doctors recommend the BRAT diet: bananas, white rice, white toast, and applesauce. Have those and other easy to digest foods on hand so that when she feels like eating again, she has her pick of simple foods.
posted by decathecting at 3:21 PM on February 28, 2008

Keep the house clean and the laundry done. When I'm sick, I find it hugely demoralizing to see the household crumble around me.

Make or fetch takeout soup. Hot and sour soup, all manner of tortilla soup, hot steamy pho...

Get a variety of herbal (no caffeine) teas.

Acquire some light comedies to watch on DVD.
posted by browse at 3:30 PM on February 28, 2008

I find that an ice pack on my stomach, around my upper abdomen area, calms the nausea.
posted by radioamy at 3:51 PM on February 28, 2008

I'd guess stomach flu as well, decathecting, but there is no way to know, particularly given that vomiting is on most lists of common flu symptoms including that of the CDC (though WebMD disagrees). Bottom line: if you feel really horrible, it might be worth going in to get tested. The "quick response" tests can give you a modestly accurate diagnosis in minutes, a more thorough test takes a few hours to return results.

As I mentioned in my first post, Tamiflu is only good if you do have influenza.
posted by arnicae at 3:53 PM on February 28, 2008

I was sick yesterday and would have liked someone to pet my hair. That's very comforting to me. On the other hand, I didn't want anyone to see me looking all gross and sick and sometimes when I'm sick I don't want anyone to touch me. So... close your eyes and offer to pet her hair?
posted by srah at 3:56 PM on February 28, 2008

CDC says here that "Children can have additional gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, but these symptoms are uncommon in adults. Although the term 'stomach flu' is sometimes used to describe vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea, these illnesses are caused by certain other viruses, bacteria, or possibly parasites, and are rarely related to influenza."

So yes, it is possible that an adult who is vomiting has influenza. It is also possible that she has gall bladder disease, ulcers, cancer, vertigo, a concussion or brain injury, or any one of a number of other uncommon causes of vomiting. Or she could have a stomach virus.
posted by decathecting at 4:10 PM on February 28, 2008

Aw, I had the flu all last week as well (not the stomach flu, though). I had really awful headaches and didn't want to watch TV at all, but I would have loved someone to bring me a ton of light magazines and things like crosswords and sudoku. Tamiflu is amazing, and the doctor will more than likely prescribe it to you as well, but on a different dosage schedule. Lots of aspirin and water and such; if she has that horrible cough like I did, NyQuil saved my life.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 4:15 PM on February 28, 2008

If she's able to get to the bathroom (or if the effluvia is coming out both ends) the pallet on the bathroom floor is a great idea. I'd also get a bunch of small trash can trash bags so that she doesn't have to get out of bed if she doesn't have to - it's so much tidier to just twist up the bag and take it outside!

Lastly, there's a homemade electrolyte solution that worked well for me when even ginger ale, seven-up, and gatorade rain were all too flavorful - recipe here. Cream of rice (found in the baby section of the grocery store, and super easy to make) is a great transitional food when she's ready to think about eating again. Good luck to you both!
posted by truenorth at 5:37 PM on February 28, 2008

Egg drop soup is about the only thing I can keep down when my tummy's upset. Vernor's ginger ales is also very comforting. Don't know if your gf wears glasses, but if she does, those lotion-filled tissues make them all smeary (no matter how much you try not to brush against them while honking your nose).
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:05 PM on February 28, 2008

Give her some chapstick, her lips will be completely dried out from all the feverish sweating.

Lie next to her when she wants you there and leave her alone when she wants to be left alone.

Frequently check on her. Lying sick in bed, aching all over and feeling miserable can make you feel very lonely.

Don't be mad at her when she wakes you in the middle of the night and wants to chat for a bit. She's been sleeping so much she probably doesn't have a great sense of time anymore.

For when she's eating: peel a slightly chilled orange for her, very refreshing.

Offer to wipe her down with a washcloth when she has been sweating but is too weak to shower.

Air the bedroom when she's moved to the living room and vica versa. She won't have noticed the foul air in the room, but will notice the much fresher air.

But above all: let her complain about her symptoms all she wants and comfort her every time. She's feeling truly horrible and complaining helps a teeny bit :)

(Just recovered from the flu myself.)
posted by lioness at 4:26 PM on March 1, 2008

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