As the novel coronavirus disease spreads through the world, more and more countries have closed all non-essential businesses, schools, colleges, and also banned group gatherings. This has ensured that most people are at home, and many are in close quarters confined with other people. As the situation on the ground continues to evolve and more information becomes available about the virus, it is essential to know how to protect yourself and your family members if you are sick or taking care of someone who is infected with the covid-19 or coronavirus. Read on to find out more about how you can care for a family member with the coronavirus disease at home.
Covid-19 Home Care: How To Care For A Family Member With The Coronavirus Disease At Home?
Most people who have gotten sick with the COVID-19 virus are known to only experience mild illness and are likely to recover at home. Taking care of infected people at home can help prevent the spread of the virus further and also help protect those who are at risk of getting severely sick from the COVID-19 virus.
Staying at home is the first recommendation of doctors if anyone in your family has:
- Tested positive for the novel coronavirus infection
- Has been tested for COVID-19, and the results are awaited
- Is suffering from flu symptoms, including cough, fever, a sore throat
In order to prevent the illness from spreading, anyone who is sick, even if they are not sure they have the coronavirus, are advised to stay at home unless their medical condition worsens and they need hospitalization.
If you are taking care of a family member who has the coronavirus infection, then here are some steps you should be taking to protect yourself and others at home. Remember, though, that the most important thing is to also protect yourself.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first step is to isolate the sick person from other people in the house in a separate room, if possible.(1) This is especially necessary if there are older adults or people with weakened immune system in your family.
- If possible, have the sick person use a separate bathroom
- Avoid sharing any personal household items with them, such as towels, combs, bedding, makeup, toothbrushes, bed linen, electronic devices, dishes, etc.
- Have the patient wear a cloth face covering if you don’t have a store-bought face mask at home. They should especially be covering their mouth and nose when there are other people around, including you. Wearing a face mask is very important because some people may continue to transmit the COVID-19 virus even though they are not showing any symptoms. Wearing a mask or any type of facial covering can help protect others around you.(2)
- If the patient is not wearing a face mask, then you should ensure that you are wearing one while you are taking care of them in the same room.
- To minimize the risk to other family members, it is best to have only one family member take care of the sick person.
- You must wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 minutes.(3) This should be done, especially after interacting with the patient. If you don’t have soap and water readily available, then using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 to 70 percent alcohol will also suffice. When using a sanitizer, you need to pay attention to cover all surfaces of your hands and then rub them together until they feel dry.(4, 5)
- Avoid touching anywhere on your face, especially your eyes, mouth, and nose, while you are in the same room with the patient. Also, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.(6)
- It is necessary that you clean all the surfaces that are touched frequently every day. These include tabletops, counters, doorknobs, light switches, etc. You can use any household cleaning sprays or disinfectant wipes for cleaning these surfaces. Remember that the coronavirus can remain active on hard surfaces for up to three days or more, so proper disinfecting of such surfaces is necessary to prevent transmission within the family.(7)
- For laundry, you must wash the patient’s clothes thoroughly. If the laundry is soiled, then remember to wear disposable gloves and keep the soiled items away from your body while cleaning them. You should wash your hands immediately after taking off your gloves. Remember not to shake any dirty laundry. If the patient’s clothes have been put into a clothes hamper, then you must clean and disinfect the hampers as well. There is no need to wash dirty laundry from a sick person separately. They can be washed together with other family members’ items.(8)
- Strictly avoid having any unnecessary visitors. This will only increase the risk of spreading the disease.
Keep monitoring the sick person to see if their symptoms worsen. Here are some emergency warning signs to look out for:
- The patient has trouble breathing
- He/she is experiencing persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- The patient has developed a bluish face or lips
- There is a new symptom of confusion or experiencing an inability to wake up
- The appearance of any new symptom
If you find the person’s condition worsening, then call their doctor at once or call the medical emergency number of your country.
How to Protect Yourself While Taking Care of Coronavirus Patient At Home?
While taking care of a sick family member who has the coronavirus disease, it is necessary to keep yourself safe as well. If possible, people who are already at a higher risk of developing severe complications from the COVID-19 virus should not be taking care of someone having the disease. These include older adults, people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, or those with a compromised immune system.
Here are some steps you should take to protect yourself:
- If you are within two meters of the sick person, try to wear personal protective equipment such as a face mask, disposable gloves, and some form of eye protection.(9) While of course, hospital-grade equipment is not going to be available in most homes, but you can also use everyday items to cover yourself as much as possible.
- Make sure that you are wearing disposable gloves whenever you touch the infected person, any of their soiled items, and any surfaces in their room.
- Do not re-use the disposable gloves and masks.
- It is of utmost vital importance that you keep cleaning your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in contact with the sick person. Also, wash your hands after removing face masks, gloves, and eye protection. If soap and water are not available immediately, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Opt for drying your hands with disposable paper towels. If these are not available, you can use a reusable towel and put it in the washing once it becomes wet.
- You can use a wet wipe or disinfecting wipes to clean the sick person’s room.
- Do not touch your face with unwashed hands or when you are near the patient.
It is also essential that you keep monitoring yourself for symptoms. If you have been following all the recommended precautions, then also continue to monitor yourself for any symptoms for at least 14 days from the last time you were in close contact with the patient.
Do not discontinue home isolation of the sick family member without talking to their doctor. The decision to stop home isolation, and the precautions being followed should only be made by a doctor. In many cases, home isolation or quarantine cannot end before the patient is tested again to determine if they are still contagious.
- Severe Outcomes Among Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) — United States, February 12–March 16, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:343-346. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6912e2external icon.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html> [Accessed 15 April 2020].
- Cdc.gov. 2020. When And How To Wash Your Hands | Handwashing | CDC. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html> [Accessed 15 April 2020].
- Cdc.gov. 2020. Show Me The Science – When & How To Use Hand Sanitizer In Community Settings | Handwashing | CDC. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html> [Accessed 15 April 2020].
- Apic.org. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://apic.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Dont-touch-your-face_FINAL.pdf> [Accessed 15 April 2020].
- Warnes, S.L., Little, Z.R. and Keevil, C.W., 2015. Human coronavirus 229E remains infectious on common touch surface materials. MBio, 6(6), pp.e01697-15.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – Environmental Cleaning And Disinfection Recommendations. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cleaning-disinfection.html> [Accessed 15 April 2020].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html> [Accessed 15 April 2020].
- Apps.who.int. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331695/WHO-2019-nCov-IPC_PPE_use-2020.3-eng.pdf> [Accessed 15 April 2020].
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