Advertisement

When coronavirus comes home: How to take care of an infected person

Click to play video: 'How to care for someone with COVID-19 at home' How to care for someone with COVID-19 at home
ABOVE: What to do when a person in your household is diagnosed with COVID-19 – Apr 20, 2020

If someone in your household is diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, do you know how to care for them while still protecting yourself?

In mild cases, it’s possible that your family member may have few or no symptoms — but that doesn’t mean they’re not contagious.

That’s why, according to infectious disease expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch, it’s critical that the sick person self-isolates as much as possible.

READ MORE: Cruise ships have always struggled with outbreaks. Will things change after COVID-19?

If diagnosed, Canadians are required to self-isolate for roughly 14 days, or until you receive approval to leave your home from a public health official.

“It is crucial that individuals follow quarantine and self-isolation recommendations properly to prevent transmission of COVID-19 to others in the home setting or in the community,” the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says on its website.

Story continues below advertisement

For Bogoch, this means limiting contact with others where possible.

Self-isolation

“I appreciate that not everyone will have the same ability, but if the living space is able to accommodate a separate bedroom or just a separate sleeping space [and] a separate bathroom, that’s ideal,” Bogoch said.

There are several other steps you should take to mitigate the risk of transmission during this time.

READ MORE: Coronavirus calls for self-isolation. Here’s how to do it properly

First, designate one person — rather than multiple — to tend to the ill individual, said Bogoch. PHAC supports this advice.

“Only one healthy person should provide care,” the agency says on its website. This should not be someone who is considered to have a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 — namely, the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions or compromised immune systems.

“Do not share personal items with the ill person, such as toothbrushes, towels, bed linen, utensils or electronic devices.”

Frequent, thorough cleaning

Bogoch recommends frequently and thoroughly cleaning surfaces in any shared spaces, like the kitchen and the bathroom.

Story continues below advertisement

“Keep these areas as clean as possible,” Bogoch said. He says any standard household cleaners will do the trick.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

READ MORE: Dog looking shaggy? How to groom pets safely at home

This should occur at least once daily, according to PHAC.

“Use household disinfectants or diluted bleach … to clean and disinfect surfaces that people touch often,” reads the website.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: The New Reality – April 19' Coronavirus: The New Reality – April 19
Coronavirus: The New Reality – April 19 – Apr 19, 2020

This includes toilets, laundry containers, bedside tables, doorknobs, phones and television remotes.

According to PHAC, any masks, gloves and other contaminated items used to care for the person should be placed in a “lined container” to be disposed of with other household waste.

Any clothing and linens used by the sick person can be washed with other laundry, and regular laundry soap and hot water (60 to 90 C) is sufficient.

Story continues below advertisement

Protect yourself

This one of the few times when wearing a mask has been proven to be effective to protect others from catching the virus.

“It may be helpful for the ill individual to wear a mask … [because] we know that masks can help prevent the shedding of infection,” Bogoch said.

“This is where mask-wearing will likely have the greatest impact if used correctly.”

It’s also crucial to practise “impeccable hand hygiene” in this situation, Bogoch said. This goes for both the infected person and the other people living in the home.

READ MORE: Small space and no equipment? Here’s how you can still exercise

PHAC recommends wearing disposable gloves when touching the ill person, their environment and soiled items or surfaces.

Don’t reuse masks or gloves, and be sure to clean your hands for at least 20 seconds immediately after contact with the sick person.

Monitor yourself for symptoms

If you’re caring for someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, monitor yourself for symptoms of the illness.

This can include but is not limited to fever, cough, headache and runny nose.

Story continues below advertisement

If you develop symptoms, “isolate yourself as quickly as possible” and contact PHAC, the agency says.

READ MORE: Canadians waiting for organ transplants feel ‘defeated’ during coronavirus pandemic

If you are exposed to the bodily fluids of the sick person (for example, if you were coughed or sneezed on when you weren’t wearing a mask), contact your local public health authority for further instructions.

The good news: when you’ve “recovered” from COVID-19, you can go back to life “as normal,” said Bogoch.

“Of course, [that means] life as normal under these circumstances [with] physical distancing and good hand hygiene,” he said.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Story continues below advertisement

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

Meghan.Collie@globalnews.ca

Sponsored content