March 9, 2020in Doctor Resource

Caregiver Guide for Partners, Spouses, Household Contacts of COVID-19 Patients

This guide is helpful for anyone concerned about the coronavirus outbreak, and especially useful for caregivers of

  • People with symptoms confirmed to be COVID-19 coronavirus disease
  • People under investigation, suspected of having COVID-19 infection

Household members, intimate partners, and nonprofessional caregivers who come into close contact with a sick person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection should monitor their own health for any symptoms. “Close contact” means less than 6 feet from the sick person.

Any caregiver who develops symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 such as cough, fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, body aches, sore throat, headache, or chills, should call his or her doctor right away. A doctor can do a video consultation or discuss by phone the caregiver’s new symptoms to decide if COVID-19 testing is needed, and whether or not self-isolation would be appropriate.

If you are a close contact and caregiver, be sure to look at these recommendations:

  1. Make sure that you understand and can help the patient follow the doctor’s instructions for medications and care. You should help the patient with basic needs in the home and provide support for getting groceries, prescriptions, and other personal needs
  2. Monitor the patient’s symptoms from day to day. If the patient is getting sicker, call his or her doctor on a video or phone consultation to get advice about what steps to take. You really don't want to walk unannounced into a clinic or ER during this coronavirus outbreak
  3. If the patient is having an emergency (for example, difficulty breathing, chest pain, etc.), call 911 or your local emergency services number for an ambulance, and don’t waste time trying to reach the doctor. Tell the 911 dispatcher that you are caring for a patient in self-quarantine for COVID-19, and describe your emergency
  4. Household members should stay in another room or be separated from the patient as much as possible. They should use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if available
  5. Prohibit visitors who do not have an essential need to be in the home. You and the patient should each wear a facemask if you are in the same room together
  6. Household members should care for any pets in the home. A sick patient should avoid playing with the pets. Otherwise, make sure everyone in the home knows the pets may have virus on them
  7. Make sure that shared common areas in the home have good air flow, such as by an air conditioner or open window
  8. Keep your hands clean, by washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or by using an alcohol hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
    • Be careful not to abrade your skin and create a hands rash by overwashing
  9. Wear a disposable facemask and gloves when you touch the patient’s blood, stool, or body fluids such as saliva, sputum, nasal mucus, vomit, or urine
    • Throw out disposable facemasks and gloves after using them. Do not reuse them
    • When removing personal protective equipment, first remove and dispose of the gloves. Then, immediately clean your hands with soap and water, or alcohol hand sanitizer
    • Next, remove and dispose of the facemask, and again clean your hands with soap and water, or alcohol hand sanitizer
  10. Avoid sharing personal household items such as dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets
    • After using these items, they should be washed with regular soap or detergent
  11. Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday
    • High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables
    • Also clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, urine, or body fluids on them
    • Use a household cleaning spray or wipe, and follow the instructions on the label
    • Labels show instructions for safe and effective use of each cleaning product, including precautions such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation, plenty of air circulation
  12. Wash laundry thoroughly
    • Promptly remove and wash clothes or bedding that have blood, stool, or body fluids on them
    • Wear disposable gloves while handling soiled items and keep soiled items away from your body. Clean your hands immediately after removing your gloves
    • Read and follow directions on labels of clothing items to be washed. Using a typical laundry detergent according to one’s washer-dryer instructions will usually clean the clothing items adequately
  13. Place all used disposable gloves, facemasks, and other contaminated items in a trash bag before disposing of them with the household waste. Clean your hands with soap and water, or an alcohol hand sanitizer, immediately after handling these trash items.

For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fguidance-prevent-spread.html

Robert Kwok

Robert Kwok

Robert Kwok, MD, Director of Health Informatics at HealthTap, is a board-certified physician who practiced medicine for 27 years. He earned his MD and pediatrics credentials at Baylor College of Medicine. Before HealthTap, he practiced clinical pediatrics in Northern California, most recently with Stanford Medicine.