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Caring for your loved ones with COVID-19 at home

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UAB expert provides practical ways you can care for your loved ones who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 at home. (UAB News)
By Adam Pope
UAB News

Much has been reported about some of the most severe cases of COVID-19, but what about those who may be experiencing mild or lesser symptoms and are not in situations where they have to be hospitalized? How can spouses, parents or families take care of their loved ones at home?

Turner Overton, M.D., professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says there are several recommendations and precautions you can take to make sure you stay safe while caring for someone diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

“It is best to limit your direct exposure to your loved one with COVID-19,” Overton said. “If possible, sleep in different rooms, use different bathrooms, and have your family member isolate him- or herself in certain rooms of the home.”

Overton recommends wearing a mask, staying 6 feet away from your loved one as much as possible, and practicing good hand hygiene by washing hands frequently with soap and water. However, that does not mean you should leave them completely isolated, he adds.

“Check on your loved one frequently to make sure he or she is doing OK,” he said. “Make sure they are hydrating and eating.”

Overton says it is important to make sure they are not developing concerning symptoms that might suggest inadequate oxygen levels: blue lips, blue fingers or toes, persistent headache, slow thinking or poor cognition, shortness of breath at rest, inability to talk due to shortness of breath, and high fevers.

He adds that, even if you are not showing symptoms, you could still be a carrier of the disease. However, it is not currently recommended that you get tested if you are asymptomatic.

“The CDC and the Alabama Department of Public Health recommend isolation of family members for 14 days after a loved one is diagnosed with COVID-19 to prevent spread of the virus,” he said.

Relieving the symptoms

Overton says those who are suffering from milder forms of COVID-19 should take a symptomatic approach for management. He suggests acetaminophen or ibuprofen for headaches and fever relief.

“I recommend over-the-counter decongestants if sinus or nasal congestion is a major symptom and OTC cough suppressants, particularly at bedtime,” he said. “Antidiarrheal agents are recommended if diarrhea is a major component of the disease illness.”

For more coronavirus information, visit uab.edu/coronavirus.