As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many people are now taking care of loved ones who have become sick.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home, though people at higher risk for severe illness — including older adults and those of any age with serious underlying medical conditions — should call a health care provider as soon as symptoms start.
Below are steps from the CDC to help you safely care for someone else who is sick with COVID-19. If you are at higher risk for severe illness, see if it’s possible for someone else to be the caregiver.
KNOW THE SIGNS
Symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath, plus additional ones listed on the CDC website. Keep track of symptoms, which may appear two to 14 days after exposure, and call to seek medical attention if your symptoms worsen, such as difficulty breathing.
If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your health care provider immediately.
HOW TO CARE FOR SOMEONE WHO IS SICK
- Provide support and help cover the person’s basic needs.
- Help the person follow their doctor’s instructions for care and medicine.
- See if over-the-counter medicines for fever, such as acetaminophen, help the person feel better.
- Make sure the person rests and drinks a lot of fluids to stay hydrated.
- Help with getting groceries, prescriptions and other necessities. Consider using a delivery service if possible.
- Care for pets, and limit the person’s contact with pets when possible.
- Watch for warning signs.
- Have the doctor’s phone number on hand.
- Use the CDC’s self-checker to help decide when to seek appropriate medical care.
- Call the doctor if the person keeps getting sicker. Call 911 or your local emergency facility immediately if symptoms become severe, such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, or bluish lips or face.
WAYS TO PROTECT YOURSELF
- Limit contact. Use a separate bedroom and bathroom. If you must share space, ensure the room has good air flow. Avoid having visitors.
- Eat in separate rooms or areas. Have the person eat in their own sick room if possible. Wash the person’s dishes and utensils with gloves and hot water or in a dishwasher. Clean your hands after taking off gloves or handling items.
- Avoid sharing personal items, such as dishes, cups, silverware, towels, bedding or electronics (like a cell phone) with the person who is sick.
- Wear a cloth face cover and gloves when needed. A cloth face cover prevents a person who is sick from spreading the virus to others.
- For the person who is sick: Have them wear one when you’re entering the room and when they’re around other people at home and out (such as the doctor’s office). Don’t place it on children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unable to remove the mask without help.
- For you: You may wear a cloth face covering when caring for the person. Wear gloves when you touch or have contact with the sick person’s blood, stool or body fluids. Dispose of gloves in a lined trash can and wash your hands immediately.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If they’re not readily available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces and items daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks and electronics. If the person who is sick feels up to it, have them clean their own space. If you’re sharing a bathroom, have the person who is sick clean and disinfect it after each use. Review more CDC guidance.
- Wash and dry laundry. Don’t shake dirty laundry and wear disposable gloves while handling it. Review full CDC guidance.
- Use a lined trash can for used disposable gloves and other contaminated items. If possible, dedicate a lined trash can for the person who is sick.
- Track your own health. You and your close contacts should monitor your health for COVID-19 symptoms.
WHEN TO DISCONTINUE HOME ISOLATION
Have the sick person talk to his or her health care provider before resuming normal activities. The CDC advises that the decision to stop home isolation should be made in consultation with health care providers and state and local health departments.
Visit redcross.org/coronavirus for more information on COVID-19 safety. For the latest information, please visit the CDC website at cdc.gov/covid19. If you live outside the United States, health and safety tips can be found through the World Health Organization and by following your local Red Cross or Red Crescent society’s social media channels (directory).
New Psychological First Aid: Supporting Yourself and Others during COVID-19 Course
In order to help people build resilience and lend support to others during these difficult times, Red Cross Training Services has developed a new Psychological First Aid: Supporting Yourself and Others during COVID-19 course. The content is based on guidance from the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The online course takes approximately one hour to complete and includes content on recognizing stress as well as caring for yourself while supporting your family and coworkers.