Saturday 28 November, 2020

11 safety measures for COVID-19 patients under home isolation

Photo via iStock.

Photo via iStock.

COVID-19 patients under home isolation should not let their guard down and must maintain health precautions, the Health Ministry said. 

County Medical Officer of Health for Caroni, Dr Jeanine St Bernard, said at a media briefing today that patients under home isolation should not become relaxed and forget their health and safety measures. 

Here’s a list of guidelines for those under home quarantine:

1. Monitor health symptoms

Dr St Bernard said those under home quarantine should monitor for worsening symptoms, such as increasing shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, wavering in and out of consciousness, drowsiness and uncoordinated movements.

Other signs include increasing fatigue, chills, persistent fever, and chest pain of discomfort.

Parents with COVID-19 must also monitor children for any signs of deterioration; such as difficulty breathing, lips or face turning blue, feeling of pressure, not waking up from a nap, or if they are bringing up liquids.


2. Don’t downplay symptoms

Dr St Bernard said positive cases under home quarantine are called twice a day by physicians and asked about their health.

She noted with concern that some were not being truthful about symptoms.

‘Patients are sometimes downplaying their symptoms or signs worsening in order to avoid possible admission to Caura or Couva Hospital. That is a dangerous practice and it should not continue.’

‘We are begging you, please contact the physician who has been in contact with you…or you’re free to call 811 where GMRTT will visit your home to make an assessment.’

She said sometimes GMRTT would assess and the recommendation would be that the person remains at home, or sometimes the assessment would be that they be checked into a facility.

‘Even if you are accustomed to having shortness of breath, we’re asking to still call.’


3. Have your caregiver nearby to help

Dr St Bernard said in the case that one’s condition deteriorates, have someone nearby to call health officials.

‘Ensure that you are not alone, that someone else is available to call on your behalf. GMRTT will respond.

Additionally she said ensure the ambulance service has the correct address in the case of an emergency.

‘Please ensure a proper address is on file so that the ambulance is not spending time driving around trying to find you.’


4. Wear face masks at home

Dr St Bernard said COVID-19 positive patients should wear their face masks while under home isolation.

‘Not because you’re at home it means you don’t wear your mask. I have personally seen persons that were COVID-19 positive,…who were not wearing their masks. A medical mask should be worn by the patient and changed daily, and whenever wet or dirty from secretions.’

Dr St Bernard said additionally cloth masks should be washed with soap and water.

Caregivers should also wear masks, she said.

‘Not because you’re at home it means you can be careless in the handling and wearing of your masks. Caregivers should wear masks that cover the mouth and nose when they are in the same room as the patient. Masks should not be touched or handled while in use. If the mask gets dirty from secretions replace it with a clean mask.’


5. Limit movement in the house

Dr St Bernard said patients under home isolation should limit themselves from moving around the house.

‘Not because you’re at home it means you can move around the house as you like. Limit your movement and minimise shared spaces. You cannot run the air conditioning with windows closed. Ensure the shared spaces are well ventilated.


6. Limit interaction with other household members

Dr St Bernard said patients should also try not to interact too much with other household members to prevent spreading the virus.

‘Not because you’re at home it means you can mingle freely with other household members. Household members should avoid entering the room where the patient is located and maintain a distance of at least two metres or six feet.’

She said this means the positive patient should sleep in a separate bed.


7. Don’t select primary caregiver with health conditions

Dr St Bernard said if one’s spouse is elderly or had health conditions they are not ideal to be caregivers.

‘Not because you’re at home it means you can select your spouse as your primary caregiver. Ideally, the one person who is in good health and has no underlying chronic medical conditions, that person can be your caregiver.

‘So if you have a spouse who is elderly, a spouse with chronic medical condition, that person is not ideal to be your caregiver.’


8. No house visits or house limes

Dr St Bernard added that those under home isolation should not be having visitors in the house.

‘Not because you’re at home it means you can have visitors. Visitors should not be allowed in the home, not just in your room. Visitors should not be allowed in the home until the person has completely recovered, shows no signs or symptoms of COVID-19, and has been released from isolation.

‘We will accordingly let you know when you’ve been released from isolation. It is normally 20 days from symptomatic COVID-19 persons, 17 days for the asymptomatics.’


9. Handwashing protocols continue

Dr St Bernard said during home isolation handwashing is still necessary.

‘Not because you’re at home it means you can drop your standard on handwashing. Perform hand hygiene as often as possible; before and after preparing food, before eating, after using the toilet and whenever your hands look dirty.’

She said if hands are not visibly soiled an alcohol-based hand rub can be used.


10. Maintain a clean sanitary space at home

Dr St Bernard said home surfaces should be cleaned at least once daily.

‘Clean and disinfect surfaces that are regularly touched in the room where the patient is being cared for, such as bedside tables, bed frames and other bedroom furniture, at least once daily.’

Additionally bathroom and toilet surfaces should be cleaned at least once daily with regular household soap or cleaning solutions and with disinfectant (1/3 cup of bleach to a gallon of water).

She said waste materials from infected patients should be considered infectious and should be placed in strong bags or boxes and removed from the home.


11. Rest

Dr St Bernard said it is important that positive patients under home isolation rest and not over exert themselves.

‘You may think ‘well I’m actually quite well, I’m asymptomatic, I can do all these things Dr St Bernard is recommending’ but we actually recommend that you rest. You hydrate, you eat and rest.

‘Do not take this opportunity; ‘I’m asymptomatic at home, I can be doing deep cleaning and all sorts of projects in the yard’. you actually need to rest.’

For more information call the COVID-19 hotline at 877-WELL or in Tobago, 800-HEAL.

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