As the statistics of the current COVID-19 global situation become clearer, it’s becoming an unfortunate reality that no matter how many times we wash our hands or how carefully we measure our social distances, someone we know will likely become ill. If this happens to you or a loved one in your household, there are steps you can take to help properly care for that person while mitigating exposure and risk to others in your home. Here, we’re sharing recommended steps from some of the nation’s top experts for you to consult in the event that you are caring for someone diagnosed with the virus.
First, understand the symptoms and incubation period. The novel coronavirus comes with symptoms similar to but distinctly different from those of the flu or common cold. Specifically, the COVID-19 is a lower respiratory condition, rather than an upper respiratory one like a cold (which presents itself with a runny nose and head congestion). WebMD created a chart that shows the differences between the two and outlines the main signs to look for in the coronavirus, including fever and deep cough. It’s important to remember that the incubation period for this virus is estimated to be between five and 14 days, meaning symptoms have been shown to appear within that time. For this reason, quarantine and social distancing can be very effective in preventing the spread of illness even when people are not showing symptoms.
The World Health Organization (WHO) asserts that it is optimal for infected individuals to remain in separate rooms from healthy individuals, but if this is not possible, a minimum distance of one meter should be maintained.
Create a specialized supply kit to care for infected household members. For times of quarantine, experts suggest having an emergency kit of supplies, similar to that used for hurricanes and other natural disasters, on hand. This should include enough water and food for several days, battery-powered radio for news updates, extra batteries, first aid kit, flashlight, any prescription medications needed, important documents and more.
Likewise, home caregivers for those infected with COVID-19 should equip themselves with specific items, including disposable gloves and masks, home sanitation cleansers, eye protection and a supply of fresh linens.
Next, if you or someone in your home has been infected, quarantine shifts to isolation. The main difference between the two, according to the Cleveland Clinic, is that quarantine is intended to prevent the spread of disease among people without symptoms but who may have been exposed, while isolation is intended to keep those who are confirmed to be infected away from others. For those who share a home with someone who has been infected, the CDC recommends separation of space and items as much as possible.
This means designating a separate room and bathroom to that person, if possible, as well as different household items for them to use – utensils, food, towels, bedding and so on. The infected person’s laundry should be washed separately, carefully folding in items as you move them to help prevent the spread of any pathogens and especially avoiding shaking any items. The infected person should avoid touching family pets or anything else commonly touched by others in the home. Caregivers should wear disposable masks and gloves during any necessary contact with the infected person or their things and dispose of masks and gloves immediately after each use.
All high-touch areas of the home, especially any items used or touched by the infected person, should be properly cleaned and disinfected immediately. The Environmental Protection Agency has provided an expanded list of approved disinfectants effective against COVID-19.
How and when to end isolation periods. The consensus is generally that ending the isolation period is a case-by-case consideration made with the advice of your doctor. There are directives, such as this one from the Washington State Department of Health, specifying that infected individuals should remain in isolation until they have been without a fever for 72 hours or more, or, if they did not have a fever, have been without other symptoms for 72 hours or more. Otherwise, ending the isolation period can be considered seven days after symptoms first appeared, whichever is longer.
The CDC recommends calling ahead before visiting your doctor if you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, so they can take any necessary steps to prevent exposure to other patients or medical staff. Patients should otherwise stay home, in isolation, except to receive medical care.
Hippo Insurance Services cares about you and your home. We do not claim to be experts on the Coronavirus but want to provide you with a resource to guide you, your family and your home through this difficult time. If you have questions, please use credible resources such as the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) to find answers. If you think you or a loved one is sick, please quarantine yourselves and call your doctor, or call 911 in an emergency.