You tested positive for COVID-19 …. Now what?
This is a question faced by lakhs of people today as COVID cases in India surge.
What is home quarantine?
Home quarantine is essential to curb the spread of COVID-19; the positive patient must remain indoors at all times.
● To protect your family members, stay away. Choose a separate room, preferably with an attached bathroom so you do not have to leave the room.
● If sharing a room is unavoidable, choose one with good ventilation, and open the windows. Maintain six feet of distance. Wear masks.
● The caregiver, who will be providing food, medications and assistance, should preferably be someone without comorbidities and risk factors of their own. This person will also need to limit contact with others.
● Avoid having visitors at home at this time; they may carry the infection out with them.
● Any plates, dishes, spoons and glasses used by the patient need to be handled with gloves. Wash with soap and hot water. No one else should use these utensils.
● Avoid sharing of personal items like combs, towels, napkins, electronic items with the infected person.
What symptoms might I have?
● Fever or chills.
● Cough, usually dry.
● Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
● Fatigue (tiredness).
● Muscle or body aches.
● Not able to taste or smell.
● Sore throat.
● Congestion or runny nose.
● Nausea, vomiting, or abdominal (stomach) pain.
● Diarrhea (loose motions).
● Redness of the eye.
Not everyone will have all of these symptoms. Some people only experience a few, some do not have any at all. They are called asymptomatic, but they can still spread infection to others and need to quarantine as well.
What treatment will I get during home quarantine?
The treatment will vary according to your symptoms. In general-
● Most patients are given fever reducing medications, which also help with the muscle pain. Your physician may also prescribe antivirals, which are intended to limit the reproduction of the virus inside your body. Steroids may be given to control the inflammatory response of the immune system to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Vitamin C or zinc supplements may also be advised. They serve to bolster your immune system.
Take all medications as prescribed; do not stop the doses halfway through even if someone else did. Each patient is different, and doctors give these medications based on your case.
● Steam treatments and warm water gargling for sore throat. If you do not have a steamer, place a large pot of water on the stove and stand over it as it boils. Inhale deeply through nose and mouth.
● Stay active; it is tempting to stay in bed, but physical activity is essential too. Even simple deep breathing exercises can improve your oxygenation; consult a physiotherapist. Healyos' COVID Home Care Program covers these; free webinars are conducted thrice a week online.
● Eat well; you may consult a nutritionist, but in general it is advisable to eat fresh, unprocessed foods- avoid fatty, oily food. Although COVID impairs both taste and smell, be careful of the amount of salt and sugar you use in your food.
Stay hydrated with water, and avoid soft drinks, packaged juices, coffee etc as they are all high in sugar. Try unsweetened tea. This is especially important if you are on steroids and are diabetic/pre-diabetic, in order to keep your blood sugar at normal levels.
I am going to home quarantine, but what symptoms will tell me it's an emergency?
You may start out having mild COVID symptoms and be advised to home quarantine, but any of the below symptoms needs immediate medical attention. Have the number for the treating physician on hand. It is helpful if you have a plan in place to get to a hospital near you; if calling an ambulance, let them know it is for a COVID positive patient.
● Difficulty breathing at rest (while sitting).
● Unable to stay awake.
● Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
● Pale, grey or bluish nails, lips or skin.
● Suddenly acting confused or irritable.
When can I end my home quarantine?
● If 10 days have passed since the day you began having symptoms AND
● You have not had a fever for the last 24 hours without taking a fever medication AND
● Your other symptoms, like cough, breathlessness and fatigue, have reduced.
In cases of severe illness, your physician may ask you to do a repeat RT-PCR test to check that you are completely free of the virus. This varies from case to case; always check with your treating physician before you step out of quarantine.