With Covid-19 on the rise should one prepare for the possibility of contracting the illness?

How to cover your bases in the event you contract the virus

Friday 10 July 2020, With thousands of new Covid-19 infections occurring daily in South Africa and the possibility of contracting the virus likely to increase over the next few months, have you thought about what would happen if you did catch the infection and would have to self isolate for two weeks, or, even worse, require hospitalisation?

“While more than 80% of people are only likely to be mildly ill with Covid-19, there are still things that you should plan and organise if you have to self-isolate at home for the obligatory 14 days. So it is well worth doing a bit of ‘scenario planning’ and considering the things that need to be put in place in the event that you do contract the infection,” advises Geraldine Bartlett, Chief Professional Officer at Universal Healthcare, one of South Africa’s foremost healthcare companies.

“As none of us ultimately knows how seriously we may get the disease, it may be sensible to plan ahead in the event that we become one of those unfortunate enough to require hospitalisation. This is particularly important for those who are living alone, a single parent living with young children, or someone who is at risk of developing a more serious Covid-19 infection,” she adds.

The importance of contingency planning

Bartlett, who is also a qualified pharmacist, believes it is now important for all South Africans to prepare for the possibility of becoming infected and shares a number of tips on how to plan for such an eventuality.

“If you live with others it is a good idea to talk with the members of your household to establish what they should do in the event that you do get sick. Together you can plan who will prepare the meals, do the laundry, go out to do the shopping, take the children to school, walk the dogs, and so on,” she advises.

According to Bartlett, it is especially important to identify a specific room or part of the house where you can stay separated from the rest of the household while in isolation in the event you do contract the illness. If this is not possible then it will be important to wear surgical masks inside the home. Ideally, you should also have your own designated bathroom but if you have to share, make sure you carefully clean the facilities after every use.

“Should you live alone it is important that you have someone check in on you once a day – either by phone or via a messaging service. Plan in advance who this individual will be and discuss it with them to get their buy-in. It can also be a good idea to give a set of keys to someone who can assist you if your illness worsens suddenly and you become incapacitated.

“If you are a single parent it is important to make plans regarding who would look after your children if you have to go to hospital. Discuss these contingencies with the individual concerned beforehand. Should you have pets, make plans about who would care for them if you needed to be hospitalised.”

Bartlett says that it should be remembered that people over the age of 60 and those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung disease, cancer, and kidney failure, are at higher risk of getting seriously ill if they get infected.

“You should therefore develop a strategy about what to do about these vulnerable people in your home if you or another member of the household get sick with Covid-19. It may be a good idea to plan for vulnerable individuals to rather stay elsewhere while you are self-isolating.”

What is self-isolating?

Fortunately, most people who get COVID-19 will have only a mild illness and should recover at home. If you have been asked to self-isolate at home, you should:

  • Stay at home for 14 days;
  • Not go to work;
  • Not leave your home to go anywhere, except for medical care;
  • Not have visitors to your home; rather keep in touch with your family, friends and colleagues by phone, email and/or social media.
  • Ask family or friends to help get/buy things you need such as groceries or medicines.

“It is most important that you follow these instructions otherwise you may well spread the virus in the community,” she emphasises.

Stocking up for self-isolation

Bartlett says you should stock up with items you will need if you have to be in self-isolation at home for the period of 14 days. Things you should make sure you have an adequate supply of beforehand include your chronic medicines; paracetamol; throat spray; toiletries; and of course sufficient non-perishable foods.

“Those who have contracted the virus should take care to monitor their symptoms carefully. This is particularly important for individuals who are at greater risk of developing a serious disease. You should call your doctor if your symptoms are getting worse, your symptoms have not improved after seven days, or if you have any symptoms that are concerning to you.

What is a Covid-19 emergency?

“It is also important to be ready in case of an emergency due to Covid-19 infection. One way you can do this is by making a list of important things such as your doctor’s telephone number, the contact details of the nearest, or preferred, hospital and emergency service, your medical scheme details, and a list of the chronic medicines you are taking. Keep this list to hand and give a copy to the person who will help you if your illness suddenly becomes worse.”

So what exactly are the signs of a possible Covid-19 emergency? Bartlett says that these warning signs may include:

  • Trouble breathing;
  • Chest pain or pressure in your chest that does not go away;
  • Coughing up blood;
  • Becoming confused;
  • Severe sleepiness (inability to wake or stay awake);
  • Blue lips or face.

“Should you develop any of these warning signs, you or a member of your household should call your nearest hospital or emergency services immediately and notify them that you have a confirmed case of Covid-19 disease. Avoid taking public transport to the hospital – either use private transport, preferably with windows rolled down, or call emergency services for an ambulance if required. And you should always, of course, wear a face mask if you travel to seek medical care,” she advises.

“While we may not always be able to control every aspect of our lives during a global pandemic, we can take action to ensure that we are as empowered as possible in the event that we do get ill and have to spend time in self-isolation , or be hospitalised. A bit of planning can go a long way to not only keeping us all safer but also provides us with a greater sense of control over these unusual and unprecedented circumstances in which we find ourselves at this time,” concludes Bartlett.


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