Providing care at home for a person sick with COVID-19? Or caring for yourself at home? Understand when emergency care is needed and what you can do to prevent the spread of infection.
This article is written by Mayo Clinic Staff.
If you have coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and you're caring for yourself at home or you're caring for a loved one with COVID-19 at home, you might have questions. How do you know when emergency care is needed? How long is isolation necessary? What can you do to prevent the spread of germs? How can you support a sick loved one and manage your stress? Here's what you need to know.
Most people who become sick with COVID-19 will only experience mild illness and can recover at home. Symptoms might last a few days, and people who have the virus might feel better in about a week. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and includes rest, fluid intake and pain relievers.
However, older adults and people of any age with existing medical conditions should call their health care provider as soon as symptoms start. These factors put people at greater risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.
Follow the health care provider's recommendations about care and home isolation for yourself or your loved one. Talk to the health care provider if you have any questions about treatments. Help the sick person get groceries and any medications and, if needed, take care of his or her pet.
It's also important to consider how caring for a sick person might affect your health. If you are older or have an existing medical condition, such as heart or lung disease or diabetes, you may be at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19. You might consider isolating yourself from the sick person and finding another person to provide care.
Carefully monitor yourself or your loved one for worsening symptoms. If symptoms appear to be getting worse, call the health care provider.
The health care provider might recommend use of a home pulse oximeter, especially if the ill person has risk factors for severe illness with COVID-19 and COVID-19 symptoms. A pulse oximeter is a plastic clip that attaches to a finger. The device can help check breathing by measuring how much oxygen is in the blood. A reading of less than 92% might increase the need for hospitalization. If the health care provider recommends a pulse oximeter, make sure you understand how to use the device properly and when a reading should prompt a call to the provider.
If you or the person with COVID-19 experiences emergency warning signs, medical attention is needed immediately. Call 911 or your local emergency number if the sick person can't be woken up or you notice any emergency signs, including:
If you're ill with COVID-19, you can help prevent the spread of infection with the COVID-19 virus.
To protect yourself while caring for someone with COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend:
Talk to the health care provider about when to end home isolation, especially if you have a weakened immune system. The CDC recommends the following guidelines for ending home isolation after you think or know you had COVID-19.
The CDC also recommends that, as the sick person's caregiver, you quarantine for 14 days and watch for common signs and symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath. Other options may include ending quarantine after 10 days if you don't have symptoms and won't get tested or ending quarantine after 7 days if you receive a negative test result on day 5 or later. But continue to watch for symptoms for 14 days.
However, if you’ve been caring for someone with COVID-19, you don’t need to stay home if:
As you or your loved one recover, seek emotional support. Stay connected to others through texts, phone calls or videoconferences. Share your concerns. Avoid too much COVID-19 news. Rest and focus on enjoyable activities, such as reading, watching movies or playing online games.
As you take care of a loved one who is ill with COVID-19, you might feel stressed too. You might worry about your health and the health of the sick person. This can affect your ability to eat, sleep and concentrate, as well as worsen chronic health problems. It may also increase your use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
If you have a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, continue with your treatment. Contact your doctor or mental health professional if your condition worsens.
To care for yourself, follow these steps:
Caring for yourself can help you cope with stress. It will also help you be able to support your loved one's recovery.
Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date.
Learn more about: Tracking COVID-19 and COVID-19 trends.