How to care for a COVID-19 patient in your home without getting sick yourself
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released clear guidelines about the things you’ll need to keep in mind if you’re caring for COVID-19 patients.
The times are scary - many of us have never seen an infection this widespread or seen our cities go into a complete lockdown. But contracting the new coronavirus isn’t an immediate death sentence. About 80% of the cases confirmed are mild, which means that they don’t have any extreme symptoms - they may even be asymptomatic. And while they need to be isolated because they’re still infectious, they could make a full recovery very soon. The situation could also demand mild cases to be treated at home. The World Health Organization (WHO) has released clear guidelines about the things you’ll need to keep in mind if you’re caring for COVID-19 patients. Here are some of the most important factors:
Compared to the previous coronavirus es, the novel strain of coronavirus is extremely contagious, which is why the patient should be isolated in one part of the house, ideally a bedroom with an attached toilet. No one should share the room or the toilet with them. The door connecting it to the rest of the house should remain closed while any door leading to a balcony or terrace can remain open. There should also be a separate lined dustbin in the room for the patient to discard things in. According to the WHO, there is no evidence yet that the coronavirus can be transmitted to pets. But patients should still avoid contact with them for the time being.
Patients shed the virus wherever they go. This means that if they are isolated in a room, the virus will be present on a lot of the surfaces, and especially items that are used a lot. The virus can even stay in the air for up to 3 hours according to a study, which is why ventilation is important. If your house is centrally air-conditioned, you shouldn’t use the AC as the virus could travel through the vents. Open the windows instead so that the rooms get aired out from time to time. Getting some fresh air and sunlight might also help the patients fell less suffocated by the quarantine.
Regular cleaning is very important and needs to take place in two steps - but even before that, ensure that you wear a mask, gloves and even a plastic apron when cleaning the area or anything that the patient came in contact with (or might have gotten their bodily fluids - like spit - on).
The two-step cleaning process: First, clean the floor and furniture and high-touch surfaces like doorknobs with detergent and water. Then, after rinsing, use a disinfectant (containing 0.1% of sodium hypochlorite). Also disinfect the TV remote, mobile phone, tablets, etc.
Ensure that the bedcovers, blankets, towels and kitchen utensils used by the patient aren’t used by anyone else. These can be washed with water and detergent and can be reused by the patient. Fabrics can also be machine washed at a temperature of 60-90 degrees Celcius.
Hand hygiene should be maintained diligently by everyone staying in the house, whether they’re providing care for the patient or not. The hands should be washed with soap and clean water before and after preparing or eating food, after using the toilet, and anytime they look or feel dirty.
4. Social distance
Try to keep face-to-face interactions to a bare minimum with the patient. Use of any shared spaces like the kitchen should be minimised and the windows should be kept open in these areas. The patient should wear a mask when entering shared spaces and maintain a distance of 1-2 meters from anyone else present in the house. The patient should also wear a mask as much as possible, but especially when their caregiver enters their room. Ideally, only one person, who is in good health and does not have any underlying diseases, should provide care for the patients. No visitors should be allowed during this time. The caregiver should always wear a mask and protective gear when entering the room where the patient is staying. Protective gear should be carefully disposed of promptly and the caregiver should wash their hands immediately after. This trash should be treated as infectious waste.
Taking care of COVID-19 patients isn’t just about containing the spread. You also need to plan for the loneliness that comes along with being isolated. Establish a means of communication with the patient, like talking on the phone regularly while sitting in different rooms, keeping each other updated on the condition as well as regular happenings in the other parts of the house. Take a few minutes to talk to them about something completely unrelated to the coronavirus so they can briefly forget about being a patient. The caregiver should also stay in contact with a medical professional. Give them regular updates, ask them questions when you have a doubt and contact them immediately in case of a change in the patient’s condition.
For more tips, read our article on Coronavirus.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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