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When COVID-19 hits home: How to care for a loved one

Health

When COVID-19 hits home: How to care for a loved one

With COVID-19 continuing to circulate widely in our region and across South Carolina, it’s important to know what to do if someone in your household comes down with the disease.
Most people who become ill with COVID-19 recover safely at home without medical care. But if someone in your household gets sick, there are certain precautions you should take to help prevent yourself and others from being infected, too.
“COVID-19 transmits very easily between people, which makes the home an ideal spot for the disease to spread,” says Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health, our region’s leader in COVID-19 response. “Still, spread is not inevitable, and there are things you can do to help prevent it from happening.”
Here are a few key tips to follow from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Isolate

COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes or breathes. To help protect the rest of the household, an infected person should isolate in a separate room until it’s safe to be around others. During that time, the infected person should live apart from everyone else — taking meals separately and using a different bathroom if possible.

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If around other people, the infected person should wear a mask, and other people in the household should try to stay at least six feet from the sick person.
Individuals at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid caring for family members ill with the disease.

Help with basic needs

Help individuals who are ill by making sure the person drinks lots of fluid and gets adequate rest. Offer assistance with securing groceries, medications or other needed items, preferably through a delivery service if available.

Introduce fresh air

If you must share space with someone infected with COVID-19, bring as much fresh air into the situation as possible. Open windows to help remove respiratory droplets from the air.

Quarantine yourself

Being in close contact with someone infected by COVID-19 increases your own chance of developing the disease and spreading it to others, which is why it’s important that caregivers quarantine, except in certain circumstances.
For example, people who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID-19 unless they have symptoms. However, fully vaccinated people should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure (even if they don’t have symptoms) and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until their test result is negative. South Carolina DHEC offers free testing for asymptomatic individuals. For locations and hours, please click here. 

Keep things clean

Wear a mask and gloves when you care for your infected family member or housemate. Keep their eating utensils separate from everyone else’s and wash them with soap and hot water. Handle soiled tissues and other items containing bodily fluids with gloves and dispose of them in a lined trash can. Frequently disinfect high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, remote controls, and cell phones. Wash your own hands regularly and avoid touching your eyes and nose.

Watch for worsening symptoms

Although most people recover from COVID-19 within a week and only need over-the-counter medications to manage their symptoms, some people may need medical care.
Patients 12 and older who are experiencing cold, flu or COVID-19-like symptoms can receive convenient care at Tidelands Health respiratory clinics in Georgetown and Murrells Inlet.
To schedule an appointment at a Tidelands Health respiratory clinic, call your Tidelands Health Family Medicine office or 1-866-TIDELANDS. Normal physician office visit fees apply.
If your loved one or housemate is showing emergency warning signs, seek emergency medical care immediately. Emergency warning signs include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
Meet the Expert

Dr. Gerald Harmon

Dr. Gerald Harmon, who has cared for patients in our region for more than 35 years, is a family medicine physician and vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health.

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