Preparing for COVID-19 in your home

By The Health News Team | May 5, 2020
Preparing for COVID-19 in your home

Experts have provided us with the information and skills necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of ourselves and those around us. You know to stay home as much as possible, leave only for essential reasons, practice social distancing, wear a face covering when outside the home, avoid touching your face, wash your hands and clean frequently touched surfaces.
However, there is the chance that, despite your best efforts, someone in your household might become ill with COVID-19. This is why it is vital to understand how to best prepare and react to keep everyone in your home healthy and safe.
Dr. Phil Yphantides, medical director for Sharp Rees-Stealy Urgent Care Centers, answers your top questions about what to do if COVID-19 affects your household.

How can we prepare for the possibility of a family member becoming ill with COVID-19?

Each household should have access to soap and water, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, household disinfectant cleaning products and face coverings for all family members. If possible, it is best to determine which bedroom and bathroom will be exclusively used by a sick person, in order to maintain at least 6 feet of distance at all times.
Stock a two-week supply of food, beverages, household products and medications for all those living in your home. And make sure you have nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including a thermometer, tissues, stomach aids, cough medicine and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), to help manage headaches, muscle aches, sore throat, sinus pain and fevers.
The contact information of the primary care doctors for every member of the household should be posted or kept where easily accessed. If children or pets are in the home, you should also determine who might be able to help you care for them, if needed, and also who you might call upon for help with shopping or other basic needs.

A family member is sick, now what?

Due to the high risk of local community spread of COVID-19, it is important for all individuals with the following related symptoms to stay home and isolate from others:

  • Fever

  • Respiratory symptoms, such as cough or shortness of breath

  • Sore throat

  • Muscle aches

  • Fatigue

COVID-19 is spread from person to person by respiratory droplets within about 6 feet when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Any family member with fever and upper respiratory symptoms should avoid close contact with other family members and wear a medical mask or cloth face covering to protect others by capturing any respiratory droplets and preventing them from becoming airborne.
With COVID-19, it is best for a sick person to self-isolate in a bedroom away from other family members, sleeping in their own bed without a partner, with exclusive access to a bathroom, and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol within reach for routine use on hands, especially after blowing one’s nose or touching the face, eyes, nose or mouth. They should avoid sharing personal household items, such as silverware, cups, dishes, towels and bedding, and avoid accessing the refrigerator or pantry or preparing any food for other family members.
A family member without illness, wearing a mask and gloves, should regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces — doorknobs, countertops, tables, light switches, drawer handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks — with commonly used household disinfectants. If the sick person’s clothing or bedding is soiled, wear disposable gloves and keep the soiled items away from your body while laundering.
Anyone caring for sick family members should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after interacting with the sick person, or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Always avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Who needs to know that the family member is sick, even if symptoms are mild?

All household members and the workplace should be informed of their illness. As they recover, discontinuing isolation and returning to work, if essential, is appropriate when they have had no fever for at least three days (without using fever-reducing medication), their symptoms have improved and at least seven days have passed from when their illness started.
All members of the household should take into consideration that they have likely been exposed to the virus and they should quarantine themselves at home as well, to avoid the risk of exposing others to the virus. Avoid having guests in the home. Any deliveries — whether food, supplies or well-wishes from friends and family — should be left on the doorstep and not handed to someone in the home.
Contact your loved one’s doctor if you have questions about their care or are concerned about worsening symptoms.

What are the signs that emergency care is necessary?

COVID-19 can cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, fatigue, body aches, lightheadedness and even confusion. Most cases of COVID-19 are mild and can be treated at home.
However, it is important to monitor the sick individual for signs of severe illness. Emergency care is indicated for the following symptoms:

  • Severe shortness of breath

  • Bluish discoloration around mouth or in extremities

  • Difficulty speaking due to shortness of breath

  • Profound weakness or inability to walk

  • Altered mental state or confusion

Anyone with these symptoms should be transported right away to a local emergency department or call 911 for paramedic evaluation and transport to the emergency department. It is important to inform 911 and the emergency department of specific symptoms so the treatment team can be safely equipped with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to provide the care needed.

Learn what Sharp HealthCare is doing in response to COVID-19.

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