How to isolate when someone’s sick with COVID-19 at home

By | March 25, 2020

TORONTO — As the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise across the country, the Canadian government is advising people on how to isolate at home if they or a loved one contracts the virus.

For those experiencing serious or worsening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, or those considered at risk for severe outcomes, such as the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions, the federal government recommends they call their health-care provider because they may require urgent care or hospitalization.

For people who are exhibiting symptoms of the disease, but aren’t in immediate danger and don’t have fall into one of the higher-risk categories, they would likely be advised to isolate themselves at home and closely monitor their symptoms.

In order to prevent further spread within the household or community, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has a number of tips on how people can safely isolate if someone in the household contracts the virus.

Plan in advance

While no one plans to get sick, it’s becoming increasingly likely that more people will fall ill, and they need to be prepared.

According to PHAC, people should ready a list of contact information for family or friends they can contact in the event of an emergency or if they need assistance.

For those who live alone, it’s recommended they ask someone to regularly check up on them (over the phone or virtually) during the course of their illness.

The federal government also suggests appointing someone to drop off groceries and other supplies should someone in the household contract COVID-19.

In terms of supplies, PHAC asks that people stock up on essentials, but avoid “panic buying.” This means that people should gradually build up their household stores of easy-to-prepare foods, such as dried pasta and sauce, canned soup, and canned vegetables and beans.

Other items to have on-hand include, pet food, toilet paper, facial tissue, feminine hygiene products, and diapers and other baby necessities.

The government also recommends buying cleaning supplies, such as soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, household cleaning products, detergents, bleach, and plastic garbage bags.

If people have prescriptions, they should refill them in advance so they don’t have to go to a busy pharmacy when they’re sick. They should also ensure they have fever-reducing medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

It’s important to prepare in advance so they don’t have to leave their house while they’re contagious, the health agency said.

For parents, PHAC said they should have a plan in place in case one or both parents become sick. For single parents, they should have a backup caregiver lined up in advance, to help them if they fall ill.

If there are a lot of people in one household, the health agency said they should determine who will provide care for whom if one or more contracts the virus.

Separate from others

When someone in the household starts exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, PHAC says they should be immediately separated from everyone else. Obviously, this will be easier for those who live alone.

However, if they do live with family or roommates, the health agency said they should keep to their own room and bathroom, if possible. If they do have to be near others, they should stay at least two metres away from them, keep interactions brief, and wear a face mask.

If there is an elderly person or someone with an underlying medical condition living in the home, the sick individual should take extra care to stay as far away from them as possible.

If it’s not possible for the person with COVID-19 to have their own space in the home, health agencies suggest they should use common areas such as the kitchen after everyone else, and thoroughly clean all of the high-touch surfaces after each use.

They should also avoid touching any pets in the home that may come in contact with others during their isolation period.

Hygiene and clean

The infected individual and everyone living with them should be extra vigilant about regularly washing their hands for at least 20 seconds at a time and drying them with disposable paper towels or a dry reusable towel, which should be replaced when it becomes wet.

They can also use a wet wipe and an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean their hands, according to PHAC.

During the isolation period, people should also be diligent about not touching their eyes, nose, and mouths. If they’re coughing or sneezing, they should do so in the bend of their arm or in a tissue, the health agency advised.

The person with COVID-19 should also wear a face mask, if possible, when they’re around others in the household.

As far as cleaning, the federal government said people should, on a daily basis, disinfect surfaces that are touched often, such as toilets, bedside tables, doorknobs, phones and television remotes.

To clean these surfaces, PHAC said people should use a regular household disinfectant or diluted bleach, consisting of one part bleach and nine parts water.

The sick individual should also not share personal items, such as toothbrushes, towels, bed linen, utensils, and electronic devices, with anyone else in the home.

If someone is bringing food or other items to the isolated person with COVID-19, they should wear gloves and a face mask and immediately wash their hands afterwards. If they’re picking up any dishes or other items from the sick individual, they need to wash the dishes or put them in the dishwasher right away and again, wash their hands.

For laundry, health agencies have advised people to wear gloves while handling clothing and to wash their hands immediately after they remove the gloves. Public Health Ontario says it’s not necessary to separate the sick person’s clothing from that of others in the home.

Recover

According to PHAC, most people with mild cases of COVID-19 will recover on their own. Anyone who is concerned about their symptoms should contact their health-care provider so they can advise them on what to do to relieve them.

At this time, there isn’t a vaccine or any natural health product that can treat or protect against the disease, the health agency stressed.

The federal government has directed people with COVID-19 to isolate at home for 14 days.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises people who have COVID-19, but have not been tested, to not leave the home until they have had no fever for at least 72 hours, their other symptoms have improved, and at least seven days have passed since their symptoms first appeared. 

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