Monday Medical: Steps for self-isolation
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
With the new coronavirus situation rapidly evolving, the possibility of self-isolating may feel more like a reality.
But what does it mean to self-isolate? And how can you prepare?
We’ve pulled from resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as experience of a local provider, to answer those questions and more.
What is self-isolation?
“If you’re sick, you stay home and isolate yourself,” said Jona Ely, a family practice nurse practitioner at Little Snake River Clinic in Baggs, Wyoming, which is managed by UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “But it’s more than just thinking, ‘I’m sick, so I’m going to stay home today.’ It’s being aware of the potential for spreading something and taking steps to avoid that.”
If you need to self-isolate, try to use a separate space from others in your house by sticking to one room and one bathroom.
Do not go to work, school or public areas, and avoid using public transportation. If you need to see a doctor, call your healthcare provider and let them know if you think you may have COVID-19. They will let you know what steps to take next.
How should I prepare?
Ely recommends having a two-week supply of food and other necessities in case you find yourself hunkered down at home.
Out and about? Take these steps to reduce your risk of infection
- Don’t wear your shoes inside your house as they can track in germs from other places.
- Wash your hands as soon you enter your home.
- If your job requires you to be around a lot of people, change your clothes and shower when you get home.
- Don’t touch your face or bite on your pen.
- Wipe down high-touch objects, such as cell phones and computer keyboards, frequently.
“I feel like everyone at all times, regardless of where you live or work, should have 14 days worth of supplies,” Ely said. “I don’t mean a years worth of toilet paper, but 14 days worth of drinking water and 14 days worth of dry goods that you could use if the power went out, or for any sort of emergency, including self-isolation.”
Who should self-isolate?
At this point, people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 who do not need to be hospitalized, as well as people who were hospitalized for the illness but then released to go home, should self-isolate.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, including a high fever and a cough or shortness of breath, call your healthcare provider to check on next steps.
When determining when to return to work, follow recommendations from health and government officials, and make sure you’re symptom free for at least 48 to 72 hours.
“Always use common sense and be smart,” Ely said. “If the recommendation is to stay home for 14 days, and you reach day 15 and still feel sick, you shouldn’t go and visit your grandmother.”
For people who worry about the impact of missing work, Ely points out that going to work and infecting others can have a much bigger impact.
“If they don’t want to self-isolate, they’re putting themselves and their family and the rest of the community at risk,” Ely said.
Limit the spread of germs
While at home, continue to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and clean your hands often. It’s best to wash your hands vigorously with soap and water.
“You literally need to wash the germs off with soap and that scrubbing action,” Ely said.
If you can’t wash your hands right away, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.
If you’re diagnosed with COVID-19, wear a facemask if you have to be around other people to limit the spread of the virus.
Don’t share dishes, drinking glasses, towels or bedding with other people in your home. And clean high-touch surfaces, such as counters, doorknobs, toilets, phones and keyboards, every day.
“Take your phone out of the case and clean the case and the phone,” Ely said. “And don’t forget to clean the cord you use for charging.”
Though it may feel easier said than done, it’s important to stay calm.
“Just like every other virus, infection and bacteria in history, this will come and it will go, and we’ll see what the consequences are,” Ely said. “Panicking doesn’t help anyone.”
For more information, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s resources on coronavirus at cdc.gov.
Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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