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Episode #36 - Safe care at home

30 April 2021 | Science conversation

Summary

If you are caring for yourself or a loved one at home, how can you keep everyone safe? Who should be cared for at home? How to prevent COVID-19 infection to other family members? What red flags should you look for that tell you it is time to contact the health care provider? WHO’s Dr April Baller explains in Science in 5.

Podcast

Transcript

Vismita Gupta-Smith

If you're infected with COVID-19 and have been asked to care for yourself at home or if you're a caregiver to someone who has COVID-19 and are caring for them at home, how would you keep everyone safe? Hello and welcome to Science in 5. I'm Vismita Gupta-Smith. These are WHO's conversations in science. And Dr. April Baller is going to explain to us today how to care safely for a COVID-19 patient at home. Welcome, April.

Dr April Baller

Thank you, Vismita. Nice to be here.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

April, what are the scenarios we are seeing where a person is being asked to care for themselves or take care of a COVID patient at home?

Dr April Baller

So the first scenario is when the health system is stretched. This happens when there, for example, is a sudden increase or surge in cases in the community, as we're seeing right now in many countries, and the bed capacity within the hospital is almost full or is full. It means that there's hardly any beds left. In this case, what the doctors may do is they might see a patient and give them the treatment and advice and then discharge them to be taken care of at home.

The second scenario, which is the ideal scenario, is when patients test positive, however, they don't have any symptoms or they have very mild symptoms and they don't have any underlying diseases like cardiovascular disease or chronic lung disease and they're not elderly. So these people can be taken care of at home. However, they must importantly, first contact their health care provider for real time advice.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

So, in the scenario where you have a person who's infected with COVID at home, how do you keep them and yourself safe?

Dr April Baller

The first and important point is that the person, the patient should stay in a separate room. If this is not possible, then they should have a designated part of the home and their movements around the house should be limited. Also, there should be kept one meter, at least one meter distance between them and anyone else. Secondly, it's critical to have good ventilation in that patient's room and any shared spaces. So this means to really have fresh, clean air coming through as much as possible. And this can be done just by opening the windows. Unfortunately, though, it obviously needs to be safe to do so. Thirdly, there should only be one person who is the caregiver for that patient and that caregiver should have no underlying condition. Fourthly, whenever patients receive care, they should wear a medical mask, as should the caregiver. And as soon as the caregiver leaves the room, they need to make sure to wash their hands. Also, the patients should have their own designated or personalized, if you want to call it that, dishes and cups, towels and bed linens.

And these can be washed with soap and water at least once a day. Also importantly, any frequently touched surfaces by the patient have to be cleaned and disinfected every day and any waste generated from that patient should be packed safely. And finally, unfortunately, there should be no visitors allowed during the time that the patient is ill.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

April, tell us about any signs or red flags which should tell a COVID patient or their caregiver at home that it's time to call the doctor or go to the health care facility.

Dr April Baller

When caring for patients at home, it is important to monitor the condition regularly. Ideally, this should be at least once a day for any signs and symptoms, complications or red flags, as you call them. And the important point here to note is that the flags can vary slightly depending on the age. So for adults, these include the adults complaining of lightheadedness. They could be having shortness of breath, heavy breathing, complaining of chest pains, looking dehydrated. For children, it can often be them suddenly appearing confused, being off their food, having blue lips or face. And infants, or also known as babies, an inability for them to breastfeed. So in any of these cases, urgent care needs to be seen. While at home, some patients may be asked to measure the oxygen saturation with a pulse oximetry. This is a medical device that monitors the blood oxygen level.

It's a very useful device. However, it's important that the user has clear instructions on how to use it and also to know what is an abnormal reading or a normal measure. And when this happens, importantly, they need to urgently call their health care provider.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Thank you, April. So that was Dr. April Baller explaining how to keep yourself and a COVID patient safe in a home setting. If you find this information useful, please share it with people who may need it. Until next time, then. Stay safe, stay healthy and stick with science.

 

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