What to Do If You or a Family Member Have COVID-19 Symptoms

Most people who either have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 will recover at home -- often with other non-infected housemates. So it’s important to be prepared and know what to do if you think you or a family member/roommate has COVID-19 symptoms or becomes ill. Do not go anywhere! First: 

  • Call your doctor or use telemedicine to get advice over the phone. The important thing is that you shouldn’t just show up at your doctor’s office or the hospital.
  • If you have all of the symptoms of the virus but haven’t been tested, you should assume you have it and still take precautions.
  • Caring for someone with mild to moderate symptoms of the coronavirus is similar to caring for someone with the flu: give them fluids, soup and Tylenol, and check with their provider about any maintenance medications they may be taking. The World Health Organization has guidelines on home care for patients with suspected or confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
  • Staying properly hydrated in the first few days of the illness seems to be important to a patient’s ability to fight the disease. People with the virus may experience an altered sense of taste that makes them reluctant to eat or drink, so be sure the patient is getting enough fluids.


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People who have symptoms need to be isolated at home. If you are caring for someone at home:

  • Have the person stay in one room, away from other people, including yourself, as much as possible.
  • If possible, have them use a separate bathroom.
  • Avoid sharing personal household items, like dishes, towels, and bedding
  • If facemasks are available, have them wear a facemask when they are around people, including you.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after interacting with the sick person. Avoid touching
    your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Every day, clean all surfaces that are touched often, like counters, tabletops, and doorknobs
  • Take special precautions when doing laundry, such as wearing gloves.
  • Maintain strict social distancing and avoid having any unnecessary visitors.

Pick an emergency contact

If you’re the main caregiver, designate someone nearby whom you could rely on to care for your family member if you yourself become ill.

What about the rest of the family?

If one person is infected or suspects they have the coronavirus, the sick person should isolate and the whole household should quarantine in the home for 14 days, according to public health officials. Even if the individual has not been tested, you should err on the side of caution and stay quarantined.

When can we end home isolation?

A hospitalized patient will typically be released after two negative tests, 24 hours apart. But because there is a shortage of tests, many people recovering at home will not receive a follow-up test to determine if they are still contagious. Guidelines are changing rapidly. The W.H.O. recommends that patients isolate for 14 days after symptoms have resolved. The C.D.C. guidelines are not as strict, now saying three things must happen before you can leave isolation after a bout (confirmed or unconfirmed) of Covid-19.

Please be smart – and stay safe!

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/care-for-someone.html

https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/2020/03/21/coronavirus-how-safely-take-care-someone-sick-covid-19/2866984001

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/coronavirus-tips-advice.html?campaign_id=9&emc=edit_NN_p_20200406&instance_id=17375&nl=morning-briefing&regi_id=100747502&section=topNews&segment_id=23997&te=1&user_id=5f30a11dadcba847ca045192785ad4cc

Tracy Watts
by Tracy Watts

Senior Partner, National Leader for U.S. Health Policy

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