If a family member or someone you live with gets sick with COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, you can take steps to help them heal and keep the rest of the household safe.
To get started, follow these recommended steps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for taking care of a household member who has the coronavirus disease.
Practicing Social Distancing at Home
The CDC recommends that healthy household members remain at home or in a comparable setting as much as possible and practice social distancing.
If you haven’t been consistently practicing the recommendations by the CDC in terms of caring for the infected person, it might be a good idea to increase your isolation to a quarantine with no public activities. Follow your physician’s recommendations if they differ.
Choose a Room for the Person to Stay
If possible, the CDC recommends that the person who’s sick with coronavirus should stay in a designated room called a sick room, away from other people. They should also use a separate bathroom, too, if possible.
Everyone else in the home should stay out of the infected person’s room as much as possible but can support them and communicate often through texting, calling or video chatting. Family members can also use the helpful virtual assistants on their smartphones and smart speakers throughout the home to communicate with loved ones.
Additionally, in the rest of your home, allow for fresh air flow in shared spaces. Open windows as weather permits, or run the air conditioner. Make sure everyone wears a mask any time you're in a shared space with your loved one.
Use Separate Household Items
The person who’s sick should never share dishes, eating utensils, drinking glasses, cups, towels and bedding or any other items. Any non-disposable dishes and utensils should be handled with disposable gloves and washed with soap and hot water or in a dishwasher. If gloves aren’t available, remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling items, for 20 seconds each time.
While they’re enjoying their meals in their separate room, the rest of the family can set up a video chat so you can still all eat together. When the dishes or other items are ready to be cleaned, it’s best to handle them with gloves on and wash them thoroughly. Again, if gloves aren’t available, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after handling items.
Wear disposable gloves when handling and disposing of trash, and clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer immediately afterward. It’s also a good idea to use a dedicated lined trash can, if possible.
Take Precautions Around Pets
The family member who is sick with coronavirus should avoid contact with any animals in the home the same way they avoid contact with other people. While there have not been reports of pets getting sick with coronavirus, there’s still a lot that is unknown about the virus, so the CDC is recommending taking this precaution until more is known about the possibility of transmission to pets.
If you’re sick and have to take care of your pet or be around animals, wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before and after handling them.
Monitor Their Symptoms and Your Health
It’s important that you understand and can help your family or household member follow their health care provider’s instructions for care and taking medications, if applicable. You can also offer help with basic needs, including getting groceries, prescriptions and other necessities.
To help ease their symptoms, make sure the person stays hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Encourage them to get as much rest as possible, too. You can also offer them over-the-counter medication to help symptoms like fever.
Monitor Their Symptoms
Closely monitor coronavirus symptoms and contact your loved one’s physician if their symptoms worsen. If the person has a positive laboratory test for coronavirus, make sure to mention this when contacting the health care provider’s office.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Make sure you have the contact information for the person’s physician handy so that you can call them on short notice if necessary.
If the person with coronavirus develops any of these emergency warning signs, the CDC says to get medical attention immediately:
- Bluish lips or face
- New confusion or inability to rouse
- Persistent pain or pressure in their chest
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
If the person has a medical emergency and you need to call 911, tell the dispatch personnel that the patient has confirmed or suspected coronavirus.
If they’re experiencing a symptom that’s not on this list but is severe or concerning, call their medical provider for help understanding what to do. If the health care provider says to go to a physician’s office or hospital, the person who’s sick should wear a face mask before entering the facility, or any time they may come into contact with others.
Additionally, many health care providers are offering telehealth (also called telemedicine) appointments right now, which gives you the opportunity for an online doctor visit, right from home. You can also set up a video visit with a doctor through the AdventHealth app, which you can get right on your smartphone or tablet.
Monitoring Your Own Health
All household members in your home should monitor their health, advises the CDC. This includes caregivers, household members and intimate partners. If any household members develop symptoms suggestive of coronavirus, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, they should contact their physician immediately.
The CDC also notes that additional symptoms can include fatigue, chills, muscle pain and body aches, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, nausea and vomiting, congestion or runny nose and diarrhea. Coronaviruses can also sometimes cause illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis, so be sure to contact your doctor if you notice any changes in your health.
Clean Your Hands and Use Protective Equipment
Everyone in your home, regardless of whether they’re sick or healthy, should practice proper hygiene. Each person should wash their hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If that isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Make sure your sick household member and caregivers have plenty of clean, disposable face masks to wear at home to help prevent spreading coronavirus to others.
Caregivers should also wear disposable gloves, if available, when touching or having contact with the person’s blood, stool or bodily fluids, such as saliva, sputum or mucus. Safely dispose of these items after using them and be sure to throw the gloves away as well.
To properly remove personal protective equipment, first remove and dispose of gloves. Immediately clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Then, remove and dispose of your face mask. Again, immediately clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer after disposing of the mask.
How to Disinfect the Sick Room and Bathroom
Any disposable gloves, face masks or other contaminated items should be placed in a lined container before disposing of them with the regular household trash. After handling any of these items, clean your hands immediately.
Clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces, like countertops, doorknobs, tabletops, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, tablets, keyboards and bedside tables. If any surfaces have blood, stool or bodily fluids on them, clean those as well.
Use a household cleaning spray or wipe and follow the instructions on the label for safe and effective use of the product, including any precautions to take when applying it, like ensuring good ventilation or wearing eye protection or gloves.
When the person who’s sick is well enough, they should clean and disinfect their room and bathroom themselves, while someone else should clean and disinfect all the shared spaces in your home. If a caregiver must clean and disinfect the sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so on an as-needed basis. They should wear a mask, if available, and wait as long as possible after the person has used the bathroom.
Any clothes or bedding that have blood, stool or bodily fluids on them should immediately be removed and washed. Wear disposable gloves while handling these soiled items and hold them away from your body. Do not shake the laundry, as that could spread germs. Immediately after removing your gloves, clean your hands thoroughly.
Launder items according to directions on the label. Use normal laundry detergent and wash as recommended, using the warmest temperature that is safe for drying and making sure items are dried thoroughly.
When to Discontinue Home Isolation
Current CDC guidelines say that if you are not being tested to determine whether you’re still contagious, a person who’s sick with coronavirus can leave home after these three conditions happen:
- At least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared
- No fever for at least 72 hours with no fever-reducing medication
- Other symptoms have improved (e.g., cough has subsided, shortness of breath has improved)
If someone who’s sick with coronavirus will be tested to determine whether you’re still contagious, they can leave home after these conditions happen:
- Other symptoms have improved (e.g., cough has subsided, shortness of breath has improved)
- They no longer have fever (without fever-reducing medication)
In all cases, it’s important to follow the guidance of your physician and local health department.
Stay Informed, Healthy and Safe
To make sure you’re taking the steps necessary to keep yourself healthy and safe, check in with your physician and follow recommendations from trusted sources such as the CDC and state health officials.
As always, we’re here for you, too. If you need care, know that we’ve put additional safety measures into place at all of our facilities.
Some of our safety measures include:
Separate treatment areas for patients with COVID-19 and/or symptoms
Required use of face masks for every person in our facilities
Social distancing to keep everyone 6 feet apart
Temperature testing for all visitors at all entrances