Taking Care of Someone with Coronavirus
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Get a thorough self-assessment before your visit to the doctor.
By Christine Johannes MD, FRCPC, FAAP, board-certified pediatrician
Can you share a room?
If possible, you should not share a room with someone who has or may have COVID-19. At the minimum, don’t sleep in the same bed. Do your best to keep a distance of at least 6 feet when you are in the same room. Open the windows to keep the room well ventilated.
What about sharing a bathroom?
Use separate bathrooms if possible. Otherwise, the bathroom and toilet—especially high-touch areas like handles, light switch, sink area—should be wiped after each use and disinfected daily. (If well enough, the person who is sick should do it.) Keep the toilet lid closed when flushing. And don't share any towels.
What needs to be cleaned and disinfected regularly?
Focus on commonly touched areas like countertops, tables, doorknobs, handles, electronic devices, phones. Keep toys and books clean and, for younger ones, out of their mouths. Set aside towels, linens, dishes, cups, and utensils to be used strictly by the person who is ill. If you have a dishwasher, use it.
How often should I wash my hands?
Frequently! Soap and water are best—either liquid hand soap or bar soap. Most important is to lather for at least 20 seconds. Sing your favorite song to keep time, then rinse and dry. Hand sanitizer is OK when you can't wash hands. Avoid touching your face—particularly eyes, nose, and mouth. Moisturize often to keep hands from getting dry and cracked.
What about masks?
Both you and the person with COVID-19 should wear masks when in the same room. Or interacting in any way—like bringing them food or assisting in the bathroom. You should still practice social distancing while at home. Also, wear a mask—even a homemade one—when you go outside, leave the house.
Should I wear gloves?
Yes, especially when helping the person with the bathroom, feeding, or touching anything they have come into contact with—i.e., dirty laundry, tissues, trash, dishes, cups. Ideally, wear disposable gloves and throw them out right away afterward. If you don't have gloves, wash hands thoroughly before and after. And don't touch anything else—especially your eyes, nose, mouth. Afterward, disinfect anything you might have touched, like doorknobs, light switches, handles.
Can we go outside for a walk?
You should both stay inside and maintain social distancing. This includes anyone else who is living in the house. If you have to go outside—to the supermarket, pharmacy, etc.—wear a mask and stay 6 feet away from others. When you get home, immediately change clothes and put in the laundry, wash hands, and shower. Consider getting delivery. Or ask a family member or friend to drop off groceries, medication, and other necessities at your front door.
Can we have visitors?
No one should be visiting your home. Keep in touch with family and friends by phone, e-mail, texting, video chat, or a virtual hangout. Limit contact with anyone else in the house, including pets. Arrange virtual playdates for children.
What else should I be doing to care for them?
Make sure they keep eating and drink plenty of fluids. Take their temperature in the morning and evening unless you are concerned it is going up. Monitor breathing and cough. A baby or video monitor, if you have one, may keep you from going into the room as often. A humidifier may soothe a cough. Give over-the-counter medications as needed for fever, pain, muscle aches, and cough, as recommended by your doctor. If the person is on any prescription medications, they should continue them as prescribed unless otherwise advised by their doctor. Also, monitor yourself. If you are not feeling well or have a fever, cough, muscle aches—contact your doctor.
When should I call the doctor or go to the ER?
If you are concerned for any reason, symptoms get worse, or fever stays above 103F (39.4C) call your doctor. If they are having trouble breathing, chest pains, vomiting continuously, or an asthmatic needs their inhaler more than every 4 hours, go to the ER or call 911. Also, if they are not waking up easily, seem confused, or are acting strangely.
What should I be doing for myself?
Your well-being and health are important too! Eat healthy food and stay well hydrated by drinking water. Rest when you can and get a goodnight's sleep. Make sure to set aside time daily to relax and re-energize. Stay virtually connected with your social network regularly. Limit how much news you read and listen to. And stay positive! Keep in mind, most people make a full recovery and this will not last forever.
The information is based partly on information from the World Health Organization.
The scientific understanding of COVID-19 as well as guidelines for its prevention and treatment are constantly changing. There may be new information since this article was published. It’s important to check with sources like the CDC for the most up-to-date information.