The novel coronavirus is extremely contagious and its effects on the body can be unpredictable. However, most cases are mild and patients can easily recover while staying home. But this begs to question: how do you safely manage treatment if you live with other people in the same household?
It might sound like it's unavoidable to get sick if your spouse or roommate is confirmed positive, but that's not necessarily true as long as you diligently adhere to some precautions.
"If you have somebody at home who has symptomatic COVID-19, you want to treat the room that they stay in, in a sense, like a hospital room. What does that mean? Limited incursions or excursions, in or out, of that room. That person is quarantined in that room, ideally with a window open. You have to treat that room as infected," Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic COVID-19 expert, said in a statement for the Mayo Clinic News Network.
According to studies and data reviewed by Poland, the transmission rate of the coronavirus is as low as 10% and as high as 60%. Obviously, when you live in the same home as an infected person, the risk goes up dramatically due to sheer daily exposure. But there are things you can do to limit that exposure and the aforementioned risk.
The patient should be isolated in their own room for at least 14 days, even after symptoms subside. During this time, the patient should wear a mask each time they come outside their room. Any surfaces that came in direct contact (physical touch) with the patient should be thoroughly disinfected.
Hand-washing is extremely important at this point, which family members should practice frequently. Family meals should not be taken together with whoever is ill.
Although there is limited evidence that animals can get ill with COVID-19, it hasn't been ruled out. For this reason, cats, dogs, and other pets should be isolated from the patient.
Concerning treatment at home, there's not very much you can do other than making sure the patient is well hydrated and rested until the illness subsides by itself. There is no approved antiviral medication yet for COVID-19.
Besides being careful not to get infected themselves, people caring for COVID-19 patients in the same household should also monitor for worsening symptoms. Some emergency signs include troubled breathing, chest pain, and bluish lips or face. If symptoms become concerning, household members should immediately contact a medical care provider.