What to Do Once You’ve Been Diagnosed With COVID-19
Finding out that you have tested positive for COVID-19 can be frightening and confusing. You may be wondering what your diagnosis means, how long you will be sick, when you should seek medical treatment and how to keep other people in your household safe. At Memorial Hermann, we want you to have all the facts so you can get through this challenging time with the information you need.
While you are sick, you can take steps to help other people in your household and in the community stay healthy. By maintaining effective isolation techniques, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in your home, you are doing your part to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Home isolation: What you need to know
Home isolation means separating yourself from others in your home. If you are sick, you should stay away from other people and pets to help protect them from contracting COVID-19. An effective way of self-isolating is to stay in a designated “sick room,” and use a separate bathroom if one is available.
Wear a mask
While you are sick, you should wear a facemask at all times. Clean, disposable face masks will help prevent spreading COVID-19. If you do not have access to disposable facemasks, you can make your own mask, using cloth materials like a scarf or bandana. Click here for a video from the CDC and the Surgeon General that will walk you through the steps of making a mask at home.
Practice good hygiene
We know you have heard it many times before, but washing your hands really is one of the best ways to prevent spreading COVID-19. Although simple, many people don’t wash their hands properly or for long enough. Watch this video for help. When you are sick, washing your hands is even more important. You should immediately wash your hands after you cough, sneeze or blow your nose. Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose, and then throw the tissue in the trash can and wash your hands. Remember to avoid touching your face, including your eyes, with unwashed hands.
Do not share household items
While you are home-isolating, do not use the same items as the rest of your household. A set of things like towels, bedding, eating utensils and dishes should be reserved for people who are sick. After you use these items, be sure to wash them with soap and water, or use the dishwasher or washing machine.
Designating a caregiver
Designate a caregiver for your family and home in the event that you’re unable to. Identify a friend or family member who is not in a high-risk population to be your emergency contact.
Cleaning your home
If you are sick with COVID-19, it is important to clean all high-touch surfaces every day. High-touch surfaces include things like phones, countertops, doorknobs, bathroom surfaces, keyboards and remote controls. Use a household disinfectant product, and follow the instructions on the label.
While you are self-isolating, you should clean the high-touch surfaces in the room where you sleep and in your bathroom. Ask caregivers to clean the surfaces in the rest of your home so that you can stay isolated.
Other people in your household should avoid cleaning your “sick room” and bathroom, because that will put them at an increased risk for contracting COVID-19. If you are unable to clean your own isolation spaces, your caregiver can clean them for you, but should wear a mask and limit how often he/she enters your areas.
Monitoring your symptoms and seeking medical care
Remember: there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. Together with your healthcare provider, you should develop a plan for relieving some of your symptoms, and discuss what to do if your condition gets worse.
Most people with COVID-19 display only mild symptoms and can comfortably recover at home without medical care. If you need additional assistance, Memorial Hermann’s virtual-care options provide convenient ways to connect with an urgent care provider, from your home, 24 hours/day.
Our Virtual Urgent Care options are recommended so that you can stay at home and avoid spreading the virus. If your symptoms worsen after your online appointment with a healthcare provider, you should go to the nearest emergency room.
However,if you exhibit any of the following symptoms, you should seek emergency care as this can be a sign of respiratory or cardiac arrest:
- Labored breathing
- Bluish lips or face
- Persistent chest pain or pressure
- Inability to talk or be roused
Higher risk patients, such as those with prior lung conditions like severe asthma, emphysema or chronic pulmonary disease and those who have had a heart attack, stroke or organ transplant should be on high alert. This same high alert also applies to those with diabetes, obesity, or are over the age of 60 as well as those who take immunosuppressants or cancer drugs.
When is it safe to discontinue isolation?
It is important to stay at home until you are no longer contagious. Even if your symptoms are gone, you may still be able to spread the virus. It is essential to follow your healthcare provider’s guidance about when it is safe for you to interact with other people.
If you have been tested for COVID-19 and received a negative result, you may leave your home after meeting all three of these conditions:
- You have no fever (without using fever-reducing medications)
- Shortness of breath and coughing have improved
- You received two negative COVID-19 tests, 24 hours apart.
If you have not been tested for COVID-19, you may leave your home after meeting all three of these conditions:
- You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (without using fever-reducing medications)
- Shortness of breath and coughing have improved
- It has been at least seven days since your symptoms first appeared
*Always follow the advice of your healthcare provider and the local health department. The decision to stop home-isolation should be made with a medical professional.
The information in this article was accurate as of April 17, 2020.