The surge of COVID-19 on our communities now places so many families in the difficult quandary of how to protect family members who are negative with a newly diagnosed COVID-19 loved one. How do you remain coronavirus negative while you live with someone who is positive?
Once a member contracts the virus, can they just cocoon together and take the knock? Unfortunately, international data has shown that 5% of deaths from coronavirus are in young healthy people with no risk factors. For morbidity statistics on a disease entity, 5% is high – a risk we would never consider.
5 Precautions to take at home when you live with someone who has the coronavirus
Members of the family who have been in contact with the positive patient should start social distancing.
Should I get tested if someone in my home gets COVID-19?
There is no need to test anyone else yet. In fact, tests before seven days since the infected patient became symptomatic are likely to show false negatives. However, if new members of the family begin to experience symptoms, contact your GP: testing may be advised.
1.Create a sick room in your home
In an attempt to reduce close contact and transmission through surfaces, where possible, the patient should sleep in a separate room. Create a ‘sick room’ in your home.
- This room should be cleaned daily with bleach (1 part of 5% bleach to 9 parts of water.) Whoever cleans the room must wear appropriate PPE during the cleaning.
2.Don’t use the same bathroom or sterilise surfaces between each use
A study in Wuhan in April 2020 printed in the bioRxiv journal showed significant positive Sars-cov-2 swabs from bathrooms in a hospital. Where possible, the COVID positive patient in your home should have their own bathroom.
- The bathroom must be cleaned down daily with disinfectant (containing bleach as above).
- If you need to share a bathroom, the surfaces need to be sterilised between each use.
3.Communal living areas: maintain a 2m+ distance & wear masks
Few homes have separate living rooms that can sustain pockets of isolation. Furthermore, families, find it emotionally straining, having NO contact with an affected family member over this time. The WHO recommends shared living space at a distance.
- If you are going to spend limited time together, do it in a ventilated room, at a distance of more than 2 metres with all members of the family wearing masks.
4.Don’t share cutlery or crockery
Meals promote viral shed. Families who eat together, get corona together. Ideally, the affected patient should eat in his/her room, certainly with separate cutlery and crockery that are washed separately. If this is emotionally straining, the patient should at least eat on the other side of the room with no sharing of food or utensils.
5.Wash clothes & masks separately
Laundry must be done separately with the person doing the laundry wearing appropriate PPE. Hot water kills coronavirus off clothes, so clothes can be re-introduced into the family after washing.
What if my child doesn’t understand the rules of social distancing at home?
Young children may not be understanding of the rules of social distancing. We are encouraged by the evidence, thus far, that children don’t spread coronavirus. The important goal should be to at least treat the coronavirus patient as ‘sick’ to the young child and encourage keeping a distance ‘to stop germs.’
I’m worried about the stigma around the coronavirus. What can I do?
The societal fear of coronavirus has led to its stigma. You may be afraid that if you disclose that your family has been affected, your children may be stigmatised and you may be avoided for months. However, cases are rapidly rising, and hiding away from corona is not sustainable.
The best approach you can take from the outset is to be open and honest.
- It builds empathy in community.
- It prevents spread by making contacts aware of their possible retroactive risk and helps them to know to quarantine.
- Most importantly here, it gives those who care for you, the opportunity to offer you support.
Take care of your own and each other’s mental health
Remember, your loved one is probably more scared than you are. Scared of complications or death (even if they are unfounded). Scared of infecting you. It’s important that in the milieu of madness in your home, you are able to provide a framework of support.
The patient’s responsibility is to focus on resting and recovery. This is your opportunity to dig deep into your resources of resilience, and lead from the front. For the next 14 days, you are likely to be caring for a corona patient, to be implementing measures to prevent spread and to be fielding communication about your family’s wellbeing.
Try to set limits on these. You still have a parental role (and now largely alone). You still may have a job, and you still need to exercise. To try to consider your family’s coronavirus ordeal as a project that will come and go – albeit a project you didn’t choose. Don’t allow the virus to cause more collateral damage by unbalancing your life further.
You may find this challenging, given your own concerns. Your GP and a mental health worker will help you process your own anxieties. Here are some tips on how to deal with coronavirus stress and anxiety.
Human beings are resilient. The 14 days ahead may seem endless as you enter them but think of how many past 14-day periods of the last year stick out in your mind. This time will pass and make you stronger. Go forward and conquer it.
Via Dr Daniel Israel of Dr Daniel Israel and Associates, a family GP.