When COVID-19 Comes Home: How to Protect Healthy Family Members

**By Gabrielle Worzella, DO**

Let’s say someone in your household shows symptoms of COVID-19 or tests positive for the virus. It’s a reality that many of us have now experienced personally or know of a family who has.

If your loved one is confirmed positive with COVID-19, what you can do to ensure the virus doesn’t spread to other family members may follow what you do when someone in your household has the flu. It may even seem like common sense. However, because this virus is so contagious, it’s important to take extra precautions to give your family the best chance of avoiding other members getting sick, while supporting the recovery of those infected.

Here are some steps you can take to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in your home:

Maintain separation from the infected family member entirely, or as much as possible.
This can be hard as the infected family member will likely need help from family to monitor their temperature, help with meals and other needs. However, it is best to at least confine the ill individual to one room in the house while they recover. If possible, this should include access to their own bathroom as well. Since that’s not always feasible, all high-touch bathroom surfaces like the toilet, doorknob, light switch and sink should be disinfected after every use.

Designate one caregiver.
Preferably only one person should have direct contact with the infected family member. Discuss this as a family and determine who will be best suited to meet these demands. When caring for the individual, the designated caregiver should protect themselves by following recommended guidelines by the CDC like wearing gloves and a mask. Wearing gloves is also recommended when washing the ill individual’s dishes or handling anything they have touched.

Virus concept. Protection and isolationWash your hands!
Sound familiar? Everyone in the household should be washing their hands frequently to avoid the spread of disease, especially after going to the bathroom, handling commonly used objects like the television remote and after sneezing or coughing.

Maintain cleanliness of the household.
Members of the household should disinfect and clean high-touch surfaces such as kitchen counters, doorknobs and light switches frequently to avoid the spread of the virus, which experts have said could live on hard surfaces for hours, even days depending the type of surface material.

Take extra precautions for immune-compromised individuals.
If there is an immune-compromised person living in the home, consider isolating that individual as much as possible from all common areas in the home and from the infected family member at all times. If both family members are sharing the same space, both should wear masks.

Be there for your ill family member, safely.
It can be difficult mentally and emotionally for your family member to be in isolation, while they’re feeling sick and may be frightened by their diagnosis. It’s important to check in on them regularly and using virtual means is a great way to do that safely. You can use video chat to communicate when in separate rooms; send encouraging text messages; and ask friends and family members to reach out.

If you have new symptoms that sound like they might be COVID-19, such as fever, body aches, cough, loss of taste and smell, consult your health care provider as soon as possible. He or she may recommend a virtual visit or in-person evaluation, depending on your symptoms. Your provider can also give you additional advice on caring for yourself while at home to reduce potential spread of the virus.

Dr. WorzellaGabrielle Worzella, DO specializes in women’s health, preventive medicine, osteopathic manipulative treatment and integrative medicine. She is board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She practices at Virginia Mason’s Edmonds Family Medicine clinic.






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