Q: Someone in my family has tested positive for COVID-19, but is not seriously ill. How do I safely care for them at home?
A: People who are infected with COVID-19 with only mild symptoms should be treated at home unless they are at high risk (primarily people over 65 and those with chronic medical conditions). This can be done safely and successfully if these precautions are followed:
1. Keep your health care provider's contact information handy and continuously monitor for worsening symptoms. Watch for emergency warning signs like shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion, inability to awaken or bluish coloration to lips or face. Any other severe symptoms that are concerning should be discussed with your provider.
2. Have the person use a separate bedroom and bathroom from others in the home and remain at least 6 feet from anyone else in the home as much as possible.
3. Discontinue sharing of any household items.
4. Provide face masks for the patient and anyone who interacts with him or her.
5. Keep visitors out of the home.
6. Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. Avoid touching your face. This applies to patient and caregivers.
7. Wash all laundry thoroughly, and handle soiled linens with gloves, washing hands immediately thereafter.
Of course, you will also need to provide relief for your loved one's symptoms. Give them plenty of fluids and opportunity for rest. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications to help with symptoms — keep an adequate supply on hand. Mild symptoms will likely dissipate for most people within a few days to a week, but some symptoms, especially dry cough, may last for much longer even once you've recovered.
For answers to additional questions, call the Hamilton County Health Department COVID-19 Hotline at 423-209-8383.
— Dr. Paul Hendricks is health officer for the Hamilton County Health Department and a member of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.