Social-distance … self-isolate … and quarantine. These terms are used daily and almost interchangeably here in the age of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
But there’s a distinction between what we’re supposed to do as a family each day and what we need to do when we’re ACTUALLY sick. And knowing those differences could potentially help you save yourself or your loved ones from an often frightening and sometimes deadly illness.
But if you’re confused about HOW they’re different… and what it is you should be doing to reduce risks… you’re not alone.
So today, I want to help you cut through the noise to figure out what it means when experts say you need to take your social-distancing to the next level to self-isolate.
And I’ll go over the basics of at-home self-isolation… or quarantine…. so if you DO end up with the COVID-19 infection, you know exactly what to do to help keep other folks from getting sick too.
Self-distancing could turn into self-isolation
Right now, we’re all “socially distancing,” as in keeping apart from one another as much as we can. And when we HAVE to go out staying at least six feet away from other folks. But if you or a loved one show ANY signs of illness, all bets are off. In that case, it’s time to call your doctor and time for more than just a little distance.
But here’s the thing to keep in mind. Hospitals and medical clinics are still overcrowded right now. In some cities, there are simply no beds in the hospitals.
So, depending on your condition, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to stay at home for now, even if you’re sick. You may be asked to “self-isolate” and call or come in only if your symptoms worsen.
Self-isolation is NOT the same thing as the social-distancing we’re all practicing right now. It’s a next-level form of separation not only from your neighbors and from making any unnecessary trips outside. It means you’re going to need to make some substantial changes WITHIN your own home.
It’s not just a matter of having space to recover, either. It’s more of a do-it-yourself quarantine to ensure others you live with don’t become sick as well.
How to successfully self-isolate at home
If you’ve been asked to self-isolate ideally you’ll want two things:
- A room to yourself that you don’t leave, and no one else enters.
- Your own bathroom that no one else uses.
It sounds like doing a stint in jail because it kind of is. Except the purpose of THIS lockdown is to keep the infection corralled to protect others.
Your loved ones can talk to you through the closed door. Better still, they can call and video chat from the next room so you can see their smiling faces while you self-isolate.
Meals should be left outside of your closed door. If you have disposable dishes and utensils, now is the time to use them. Place them into a sealed garbage bag in your room when you’re done eating.
Whatever has to come out of your room should be handled with gloves and while wearing a mask. And should anything you’ve touched while sick need cleaning — clothing, sheets, dishes, towels, the toilet, etc.— the gloves and mask should be kept on until they’re done.
If you’re so sick that someone has to come in and care for you, they should ALWAYS be wearing gloves and a mask, too. A shirt or bandana covering the mouth and nose isn’t perfect. Still, either is better than nothing if no surgical masks are handy.
And never forget any caregiver needs to wash their hands vigorously both before and after coming into the room.
Stay put to keep loved ones safe
If you start to feel better, DON’T break your self-isolation yet. I know it will be tempting, but the COVID-19 infection has a notorious roller-coaster cycle.
Even if you’ve been in isolation for 14 days or longer, you want two things to happen before you ever consider breaking your quarantine.
- At least three days of no fever and a dramatic easing of the symptoms.
- Permission from your doctor.
And you may want to think about adding on a few extra days to be safer since studies are now showing some folks can “shed” the virus for up to eight days after recovery.
If you have any questions or changes in your condition while you self-isolate, call your doctor or the hospital ASAP. And if you have any respiratory struggles, call an ambulance and tell them you have a suspected case of coronavirus.
Self-isolation is NOT easy. But it’s a lot better than spreading this infection to your loved ones. And knowing HOW to handle it will make a bit more bearable.