The vast majority of individuals who develop COVID-19 will not require hospitalization and will end up fighting the illness at home. But how do you best prepare your household in case someone comes down with this virus?
James Langabeer II, PhD, FAHA, a professor of emergency medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, provides some guidance on how families should best prepare.
“First off, I recommend that all families put together an emergency plan if they haven’t already done so,” said Langabeer, who also is the vice chair of the Department of Population Health at UTHealth. “In addition to covering COVID-19, this plan should also cover natural disasters as well, like the next big hurricane. It involves understanding what essential items you need to have, plans for medical treatment, and an emergency kit for all essential items.”
Disinfectants and cleaning
As far as disinfectants go, Langabeer emphasizes the importance of having plenty of hand soap available. Washing hands for 20 seconds as often as necessary is the best line of defense. Always wash hands after you cough, sneeze, use the bathroom, or have contact with others. He also recommends using antibacterial/antiviral cleaning products to wipe down common bathroom and kitchen surfaces frequently. He suggests wiping down surfaces daily, especially if there are multiple people in the household or children present.
Over-the-counter medications and thermometers
Langabeer says keeping your immune system healthy is critical. Having vitamins C and B complex on hand could definitely be helpful, in addition to lysine and echinacea, which are proven immune boosters.
To treat fever, make sure you have acetaminophen available as well as medication to treat specific symptoms, such as expectorants to thin and loosen mucus in the airways. An antitussive (cough medicine) is great to have available, too.
Every emergency kit should have a thermometer. While any thermometer will work, if multiple people are using the same one, Langabeer suggests trying one that has disposable tips or one that is touchless. Forehead thermometers, which use infrared light, are great for avoiding saliva.
Food and drink
There is a strong connection between the human gut and the immune system, which is why Langabeer recommends protecting your microbiome (genetic material of all the microbes – bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses – that live on and inside the human body) by taking a daily probiotic.
“Also watch the types of food and drink you are consuming,” said Langabeer. “As we spend weeks or months inside our homes, the lack of adequate fruits and vegetables could weaken your defenses.” He recommends avoiding lots of sugary snacks and drinks or at least limit their intake.
And one cannot underscore the importance of getting enough sleep, because adequate rest builds your capacity for immune response and helps fight disease.
Tips for caregivers
If someone in your household comes down with COVID-19, it’s important for caregivers to take as many precautions as possible to avoid becoming infected. Langabeer provides the following tips:
- If you can, establish a partition for the sick person and avoid contact as much as possible.
- Use face masks and gloves. Disinfect surfaces routinely.
- Protect other family members as much as possible while providing care to the person who is ill. People impacted by COVID-19 will have difficulty with basic tasks because of lethargy, fever, and difficulty breathing that sometimes develop as a result of the virus.
- Make sure the sick family member is intaking as much water and other fluids as possible.
- Check for fever changes often and be on the lookout for serious complications, especially if there are underlying medical conditions (diabetes, asthma, heart disease, etc.)
- Have your physician’s phone number and address handy and create a plan in case you need to call. Don’t wait until the last minute to do so.
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