The COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic has impacted the lives of all of us—for some, the very households they live in. Have you considered how you might take care of a family member that has been infected and quarantined at home? Below are some important tips to aid in the care of your loved one while protecting yourself.
Has someone in your household complained of a sore throat lately? Sniffling or coughing? Feeling fatigued?
Don’t panic. It could be influenza or the common cold. And while the former is nothing to take lightly, especially by those who are older or have underlying health conditions, most cases of the flu are less dangerous than COVID-19, the disease caused by a novel coronavirus that is responsible for the ongoing pandemic.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most prominent symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath.1 The cough that accompanies COVID-19 is generally dry (nonproductive). People infected with the virus may also report achiness, fatigue, sore throat, nasal congestion or diarrhea.2 Loss of ability to smell and/or altered sense of taste has been reported by some patients.3 For most individuals, symptoms are mild. Some infected people would not have known that they contracted the virus had they not been tested. However, infected individuals without symptoms can still transmit the virus.
Related Article: How to Stop Touching Your Face to Prevent Viruses
How do I know if someone has the coronavirus?
Although we know what the symptoms are, the only way for someone to know if they have COVID-19 is to get tested.
While the lines may be long and results may take days or sometimes over a week to receive, knowing whether one has COVID-19 is the first step in treating the virus. This knowledge can also help protect family members who would otherwise have been unaware of the presence of an infected individual within close proximity. Anyone who has been in contact with a household member who has tested positive for COVID-19 should also be tested.
How to care for an infected person
Infected individuals, as well as those who are caring for them, should not leave their residence unless absolutely necessary, to avoid spreading the disease. Caregivers should wear a cloth face mask and gloves when in proximity to an infected person. Thorough handwashing should occur after all contact with an infected individual or with items and surfaces they may have come in contact with. These items and surfaces should be disinfected regularly.4
If possible, the person being cared for should also wear a mask to minimize airborne droplets. Although an article recently published in The Lancet suggested that exhalations, sneezes and coughs project droplets within a gas cloud that can travel up to 27 feet, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, MD, believes that it would take an extremely forceful sneeze for droplets to approach this distance.5 For now, people are recommended to adhere to the current advice of maintaining at least six feet of distance from each other.
As COVID-19 has been detected in feces, it is wise for infected individuals to use a separate bathroom from that used by other household members if possible.6
The immune system is dependent upon the raw materials we supply to our body. Adequate protein, hydration and micronutrients such as vitamins C and D and zinc help support the immune function of both patient and caregiver.7-9 Fresh fruit and vegetables and other components of a Mediterranean diet promote good health in general, and may help maintain healthy immune function.10 Adequate hydration is also important during recovery (but, like anything, can be overdone).
While rest and quality sleep are essential for patient recovery, they also support the immune system’s ability to protect against disease.11 The amount of care needed by a specific individual will differ, but some caregivers may find themselves suffering from short or interrupted sleep. To catch up on sleep deficits, try napping when the patient does.
COVID-19 patients usually recover within days to weeks and may not require constant care. For those who are engaged in full time caregiving situations, exercise may help. In a study of male and female dementia caregivers, aerobic exercise lengthened telomeres (a marker of cellular aging), while improving cardiorespiratory fitness and lowering perceived stress.12
Making time for self-care is critical for anyone involved in the care of another person. Although it may not always be possible to choose when, taking a break to relax or do something we enjoy is important.
Related Health Protocol:Stress Management
It is important to monitor infected individuals for signs of increased disease severity, including difficulty breathing, bluish face or lips, chest pain, confusion or an inability to rouse them.4 If any of these signs occur, the patient requires immediate medical attention.
It should be mentioned that treatment for other medical conditions the infected patient may have should not be neglected.
With proper care, the odds of recovery from COVID-19 are very good. Keep in mind that, like the period of two to 14 days that precedes the onset of symptoms, people might still transmit COVID-19 during the days following recovery.4,13 According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), two negative tests taken 24 hours apart and an absence of fever and other symptoms signals a lack of contagiousness. If the infected person is not willing to be tested, they can stop home isolation if there has been no fever for 72 hours or more, symptoms have improved and at least one week has passed since symptoms first appeared.4
A recent study conducted in Wuhan, China, found that the longest duration of viral shedding by someone infected with COVID-19 was 37 days. While the individual is an outlier among the 137 survivors in the study, it suggests that testing may be the preferred method to ascertain a lack of contagiousness.14
About the author: Dayna Dye has been a member of the staff of Life Extension® since shortly after its inception. She has served as the department head of Life Extension® Wellness Specialists, is the author of thousands of articles published during the past two decades in Life Extension® Update, Life Extension Magazine® and on www.LifeExtension.com, and has been interviewed on radio and TV and in newsprint. She is currently a member of Life Extension’s Education Department.
- “Symptoms of Coronavirus”. United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed 20 March 2020. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
- “What are the Symptoms of COVID-19?” World Health Organization. 9 March 2020. www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
- “COVID-19 Anosmia Reporting Tool for Clinicians”. American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. www.entnet.org/content/reporting-tool-patients-anosmia-related-covid-19
- “Caring for Someone.” United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed 18 March 2020. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/care-for-someone.html
- Bourouiba L. JAMA. 2020 Mar 26.
- Chen C et al. Ann Intern Med. 2020 Mar 30.
- Carr AC et al. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 3;9(11). pii: E1211.
- Azrielant S et al. Isr Med Assoc J. 2017 Aug;19(8):510-511.
- Wessels I et al. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 25;9(12). pii: E1286.
- Maijo M et al. Front Physiol. 2018 Jul 26;9:997.
- Besedovsky L et al. Pflugers Arch. 2012 Jan; 463(1):121–137.
- Puterman E et al. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2018 Dec;98:245-252.
- “COVID-19 Risk” United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/faq.html
- Zhou F et al. Lancet. 2020 Mar 28;395(10229):1054-1062.