Explainer: How to self-isolate at home as a coronavirus patient

This week, the government announced that patients with mild or no symptoms of the coronavirus will be allowed to self-isolate and receive treatment at home.

However, for this to work effectively, several experts including doctors have said that there is need for establishing proper surveillance and policing measures at the community level before implementing home-based care.

Among the surveillance measures include proper care at home to minimise further spread of the virus to other members of the family or neighbours.

Here are some of the guidelines that might be useful if you are receiving treatment at home:

Know what self-isolating means

Before anything else, it is important to know the difference between self-quarantine and self-isolating if you are receiving home-based care.

Self-quarantine is when a person stays in place, whether at home or in quarantine centres for 14 days after being exposed to someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

On the other hand, self-isolating is when a person who has started to show signs of the coronavirus or has tested positive separates himself or herself from others within the home or quarantine centre as they receive treatment. This means that the patient is in a separate room and does not share items such as utensils.

Advice for patients: What to do when you are sick.

Even if you are showing mild symptoms or have tested positive for the coronavirus but have no symptoms, you still need to self-isolate to protect others from catching the virus.

Here are some of the guidelines that the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) says you should follow:

  • Stay at home and monitor your symptoms closely. It is advisable that you should not go out frequently unless very necessary, for instance to buy groceries and medication. If possible, have someone do these tasks for you.
  • Separate yourself as much as possible from other people, especially if you live with family or friends. If possible, have a specific room that you stay in and use a specific bathroom or toilet. If you are sharing amenities or space with other people, ensure there is sufficient distance between you and others. You can put a curtain that separates spaces in the home and if sharing a bed sleep head to toe.
  • Ensure that you have your mask on at all times when you are near other members of your home. This will help prevent further infection to others. It is also crucial to avoid touching surfaces in a shared house. Also remember to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Keep in touch with your doctor and health officials to monitor the progress of your condition. It is possible that the Ministry of Health will conduct more tests to ensure that you are completely rid of the virus before being allowed to move freely outside.

Advice to care givers and other members in the home

If you are caring for someone with the coronavirus at home, here is some guidelines that you can follow to ensure that you are safe and the patient receives adequate care:

  • It is important for a caregiver to know the symptoms of the coronavirus, specifically to gauge if the patient is getting better or worse as well as preventive measures for themselves. This information is widely available on the Ministry of Health website as well as other sources such as the WHO and the CDC.
  • As a caregiver, you should help the patient follow the doctor’s instructions which include staying at home and taking medication. As there is no cure yet for the coronavirus, most medication given are for easing the symptoms that the patient has such as fever and cough.
  • Ensure that the patient drinks a lot of fluids and rests. You can take up chores such as grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning among others.
  • Limit physical contact with the patient as much as possible. Have the patient stay in a different room and use their own utensils. You may have to separate personal items such as toothbrushes as well.
  • Avoid visitors completely until the patient recovers fully.
  • While attending to the patient, ensure that you have protective equipment on such as surgical masks and gloves. Ensure that the mask completely covers your nose and mouth.
  • Monitor your health as well by observing symptoms such as fever or cough.
  • If the patient starts developing worse symptoms such as shortness of breath, contact the doctor or the Ministry of Health immediately.

Changes to the home

Because the coronavirus is highly infectious, there are certain changes that you will need to make in your home during self-isolation.

Some of these changes include:

  • Disinfect your home as frequently as possible. Scientific reports show that the virus can survive on surfaces for several hours, further posing risk to other who come in contact with an infected surface.
  • While cleaning your home, wear gloves. You can use disinfectant or soap and clean water while cleaning your home, paying great attention to commonly touched surfaces such as door knobs, remote, light switches, taps, sinks and tables, among others.
  • Maintain good hygiene in the home such as frequent hand washing with soap and clean water. Similarly, immediately wash clothes that have been contaminated with any bodily fluids such as blood and saliva.
  • Use different utensils such as plates, cups and spoons with the patient, after which you should have them washed thoroughly with soap and clean water. Also, if possible, have a designated trash bag for the patient.
  • If there are other members in the house, designate a specific room for the patient. If this is not possible, set out a space within the house for the patient.
  • Ensure that there is adequate air circulation in the home by opening windows at all times.

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