COVID-19 is highly contagious and can quickly become serious. Safely caring for someone in your home who has the illness requires extra steps. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe while you help a loved one with the novel coronavirus:
What should I do if someone in my home has COVID-19 symptoms?
Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and don’t need medical care. They’re able to recover at home, the same way they would with a cold or flu. But those who are more likely to get severe COVID-19 symptoms should call their doctor as soon as symptoms appear. People at higher risk include those who are pregnant, have chronic/underlying medical conditions, or are age 65 or older.
If you suspect someone in your home has COVID-19 (or if a doctor has already made the diagnosis), you need to take special precautions. The virus spreads easily and you could catch it.
How can I care for a family member with COVID-19 at home?
There are multiple ways you can make life easier for a sick family member:
Choose a caregiver
First, choose one person to be the only caregiver. If possible, that person should be someone who isn’t at high risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19. It’s important to limit contact with a sick family member to just one healthy caregiver to avoid spreading the illness to the entire household.
Try to make your loved one as comfortable as possible. That includes encouraging them to:
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink lots of liquids
- Keep taking regular prescription medications
- Eat meals (if they can tolerate food)
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers (such as acetaminophen) to relieve headaches, muscle pain and fever
Take over responsibilities
When your family member is sick, you can help by doing things for them, such as:
- Grocery shopping
- Filling prescriptions
- Taking care of kids and pets
- Arranging telehealth appointments (video visit with a doctor)
Watch for worsening symptoms
Be on the lookout for any symptoms that signal an emergency. You should seek immediate medical care – call 911 or go a nearby emergency room – if you see any of the following in your family member:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent chest pain
- Constant pressure in the chest
- Confusion or not waking up
- Bluish lips or face
What can I do to prevent the coronavirus from spreading?
Coronavirus passes easily from person to person. You can catch it by breathing in virus particles an infected person releases when they cough, sneeze or talk. You can also pick it up by touching surfaces an infected person touched.
To protect yourself from getting sick when someone in your home has COVID-19, take these steps:
Set up a separate sick area
Dedicate an area of your home for the sick family member. Ideally, it would include a separate bedroom and bathroom that only the person with COVID-19 uses. They would eat all their meals here and remain in this part of the home until they’re no longer contagious. No visitors or pets enter this area – only the one chosen caregiver.
If having a separate bedroom and bathroom for the sick person is not possible, try to create a space especially for them. It should be a place where they can rest at least six feet away from others. Open windows and run a fan to increase airflow. This helps remove germs from the air.
Wear protective clothing
Anyone over the age of 2 who has COVID-19 should wear a cloth mask around other people. This keeps virus particles from entering the air when they talk, sneeze or cough. For added safety, you should also wear a mask when you’re caring for someone with COVID-19. If you don’t have a mask, use a bandana or scarf to cover your nose and mouth.
You can also reduce your risk of getting sick by wearing disposable gloves. Put them on whenever you’re handling items or surfaces a sick family member touched, including:
- Dishes, cups and silverware
- Bedding and laundry
- Counters, nightstands and other furniture
- Toilets, doorknobs and other high-touch fixtures
- Any item that came into contact with bodily fluids (vomit, stool, saliva, mucus or urine)
Follow steps to safely remove gloves. Whether or not you have access to disposable gloves, wash your hands after helping your loved one. Use soap and water and wash for at least 20 seconds. Always keep your hands away from your face. Coronavirus enters your body through the nose, mouth and eyes.
Disinfect the house regularly
The coronavirus lingers on surfaces touched by a sick person even before they show symptoms. It’s essential to clean and disinfect high-touch areas of your home, such as:
- Light switches
- Toilet handles
Use a disinfectant cleaner on surfaces. Allow it to sit for several minutes to kill germs before wiping off. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detailed instructions on how to disinfect your home.
Remember, there are several ways you can protect your family member’s health: