March 24, 2020
With coronavirus cases growing by the day, it's increasingly possible that someone you live with could become infected. But there are precautions you can take to keep yourself safe while living with a person who already has COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
It's important to self-quarantine sick people using the CDC's guidelines, health experts previously told Insider. Those guidelines include regular sanitation of surfaces, staying at home, and treating the sick person's symptoms while protecting yourself.
Currently, the CDC recommends that normally healthy people who have mild COVID-19 symptoms, like a dry cough and fever, stay home to recover. Only if you're in a high-risk group or have severe symptoms like shortness of breath and persistent chest pain should you call a healthcare provider to determine if you should go to the emergency room.
Have a designated "sick room" where the infected person stays
If someone you live with has COVID-19 symptoms, the CDC recommends they stay in a room that is isolated from everyone else. This should be done whether they've taken a COVID-19 test or not.
If possible, they should also use a different bathroom than others in the home.
If that's not possible, the CDC suggests sick people should wear face masks to prevent the spread of infectious droplets while they use a shared restroom.
The sick room should have a bag-lined trash can where the sick person can throw tissues after they've used them to cover coughs and sneezes, as well as paper towels and cleaning supplies.
It's also a good idea to give the sick person in your home their own set of cups, plates, utensils, towels, bed sheets, and any other items you would typically share but now cannot.
To help the person manage their symptoms at home, they should drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration and take recommended over-the-counter medications.
Healthy people outside of the "sick room" should sanitize surfaces and wash their hands often
Ramping up your hand-washing habits is the best way to stay safe if you live with a sick person, according to Dr. Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention epidemiologist who specializes in combating global health security threats.
This includes washing your hands for 20 seconds with soapy warm water before and after handling food, after using the bathroom, and after touching public surfaces like door knobs and counters.
"I would highly recommend using an EPA-registered disinfectant because I've seen a lot of people say, 'Oh, I use this natural homemade one,' and I would not encourage that," Popsecu previously told Insider.
Bleach sprays are most effective for cleaning surfaces, and Lysol and Clorox wipes are also effective.
You should come up with a schedule for deep-cleaning surfaces used daily in your home's shared spaces, like phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables.
Wear a mask and gloves if you must help a sick person in isolation
The CDC recommends daily cleaning in the sick person's isolation room and as-needed cleaning in the bathroom they use.
If possible, the sick person should clean their own space in solitude, but if they need caregiver assistance, the caregiver should wear a mask and disposable gloves and wait to clean the bathroom for as long as possible after the sick person has used it, according to the CDC.
Caregivers should also wear a mask and disposable gloves when handling an infected person's laundry, dishes, and garbage, and they should wash their hands for 20 seconds after handling these items.
Dirty laundry items should be placed in a trash bag or trash bag-lined clothing bin.
No one should leave the home
If one of your housemates is ill, you should stay inside to prevent spreading that illness to others, even if you don't feel sick. Try to use delivery services for groceries, laundry, and other supplies.
Once the sick person's fever has subsided for at least 72 hours, their other symptoms have started to subside, and they're seven days out from when they first felt ill, it's safe for them to leave their sick room, according to the CDC.