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How to care for someone with COVID-19

A man putting on a cloth face mask.

Not everyone who gets sick with COVID-19 needs to go to the hospital. Most people can be cared for at home.

If you find yourself taking on the role of caregiver for a loved one at home, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following advice for helping them get better while avoiding getting coronavirus yourself.

Provide basic support

  • Help your loved one follow their doctor's instructions for care and medicine.
  • If they have a fever, try to lower it with over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen.
  • Encourage your loved one to rest and drink a lot of fluids.
  • Go grocery shopping, fill prescriptions and get other items they may need.
  • Take care of their pets. Limit contact between your loved one and their pets.

Protect yourself from illness

  • Keep in mind that COVID-19 spreads through droplets created when someone talks, coughs or sneezes. Try to stay at least 6 feet away from your loved one at all times.
  • Set up a separate sick room for the person. It's also best if they have their own separate bathroom, if possible.
  • If you have to share space, make sure the room has good airflow. Open a window or turn on a fan to help remove respiratory droplets from the air.
  • Avoid sharing dishes, utensils, towels, bedding or electronics (such as a phone) with your loved one.
  • Dedicate a lined trashcan for the person who's sick.
  • Ask them to wear a cloth face mask when you are around. You should wear a cloth face mask yourself when in their presence too.
  • Wash your hands often. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Frequently clean and disinfect highly used surfaces, including doorknobs and light switches.
  • Ask the sick person to clean and disinfect their sick room and bathroom, if they can.

Monitor your loved one's health

  • Be sure you have the phone number of your loved one's doctor available.
  • Call their doctor if they continue to get sicker.
  • Watch for emergency warning signs such as trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to stay awake, and bluish lips or face.
  • If an emergency arises, call 911 and let the dispatcher know your loved one has COVID-19.

Keep an eye on your own health

  • Monitor your health too. Keep an eye out for COVID-19 symptoms like fever, cough and shortness of breath.
  • If you are having trouble breathing, call your doctor or the emergency room. Tell them your symptoms, and let them know you've been caring for someone with COVID-19.

Maybe the one good thing about COVID-19 is that symptoms last only a few days for most people, and they usually feel better after a week.

Learn more about COVID-19 by visiting our Coronavirus health topic center.

Reviewed 5/26/2020

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