With Sarasota Memorial Urgent Care Physician Laura McGill, DO
Although Sarasota Memorial and other Suncoast hospitals are caring for an unprecedented influx of inpatients with severe COVID-19, most people can recover from infection without hospital care.
Thanks to COVID-19 vaccines’ success in preventing severe disease, breakthrough cases among those who’ve been vaccinated tend to be mild or without symptoms. And with monoclonal antibody treatments now readily available, it’s likely that even more area residents will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home.
By being prepared before COVID-19 impacts your household, you can skip the stress of shopping for medicines, supply shortages or trying to work out details when you’re un-well or caring for a loved one with COVID-19.
Use this COVID-19 Care at Home guide to know what supplies you can get ahead of time, what steps to take if you or a loved one gets sick and when to seek medical care. We also recommend reaching out to your healthcare providers now to find out how they support patients with COVID-19 who don’t require hospitalization: Would they provide remote monitoring at home, telehealth services, home care nursing or other care?
It’s a good idea to stock your at-home COVID-19 care kit before you need it. Here is a checklist of the basic necessities.
Supplies for Patients
- Face masks (cloth or disposable; do not rely on bandanas or buffs/neck gaitors)
- Disposable gloves
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (with 60% alcohol)
- Thermometer (contactless, infrared thermometer is best)
- Pulse oximeter (to measure level of oxygen in the blood)
- Blood pressure monitor
- Over-the-counter medicines for pain, fever, cough, sore throat, inflammation, diarrhea and vomiting
- Hydration and electrolyte drinks or additives for water (liquids, tablets or mix-in powders; Pedialyte; sugar-free popsicles). Gatorade is recommended, but it should be diluted with water. Pedialyte drinks and popsicles work well for children.
- Gel cold packs (for high fevers and aches)
- Notebook to log and track symptoms
- A bell or other device to alert a caregiver of an urgent need for assistance
- Supplemental nutrition drinks and/or soft, bland foods (for nutrient intake when nauseous or lose appetite due to high fever); choose high-calorie foods and liquids
Supplies for the Household
- Household cleaning and sanitizing products
- Extra sheets and towels
- List with emergency contacts and other important phone numbers (family, friends, caregivers, healthcare provider and preferred ER)
- List of current medications for each household member (drug name, dosage amount, dosage schedule)
Supplies for the Caregiver
- Face masks (cloth or disposable)
- Disposable gloves
- Eye protection (face shield or safety goggles/glasses)
- Notebook to track your own health and log important care information, including when medicines were given.
Red Flags | Seek Immediate Care
- Trouble breathing / shortness of breath (blueish lips/face, pulse oximeter readings of 92 or less)
- Pain or pressure in the chest that doesn’t go away
- Fever spikes (especially in older people) or prolonged fever for more than a week
- New confusion
- Loss of speech or movement
- Signs of delirium or dehydration (fatigue, dizziness or overly-yellow urine)
- Inability to stay awake
If you experience any of these warning signs, do not wait. Seek emergency medical care immediately. Call ahead to the facility or call 9-1-1, and alert them of the situation.
Home Alone with COVID-19
If you live alone or do not have a household member who could be your caregiver, ask a few friends or neighbors to be your go-to team. Your “team” would reach out (call or video chat) for regular check-ins, care for your pets, pick up mail, locate needed supplies (oximeter, thermometer, etc.) and deliver groceries or other necessities while you’re self-isolating and recovering.
It’s also a good idea to give a spare house key to someone on your team or hide it outside, near your front door. In the event of a 9-1-1 emergency, your team/neighbor will be able to get in to care for pets and grab things you may need at the hospital. In the event you miss a check-in call, they can enter your home to ensure you’re OK.
Treatment at Home
There’s no cure for COVID-19, so treatment must focus on getting rest, keeping the illness from worsening and alleviating symptoms.
If you’re among those at high risk of severe COVID-19, monoclonal antibody treatments can help prevent mild to moderate illness from worsening. The state is providing monoclonal antibody treatmentat sites throughout Florida for people age 12 and older. Treatment at these state-supported sites is free and does not require a physician referral. Click here for more information and to find a site near you.
COVID-19 symptoms and severity vary greatly from person to person. People who are vaccinated are more likely to experience mild to moderate symptoms and a shorter illness period. People who are not yet vaccinated are more likely to experience severe illness, especially with the Delta COVID-19 variant.
The most common symptoms among adults include fever, dry cough, fatigue, headache, loss of taste or smell; less common symptoms include aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhea, conjunctivitis and skin rashes. Symptoms among children can also vary greatly and can include fever, runny nose, cough, vomiting, headache, sore throat or fatigue.
Symptoms typically appear 3 to 5 days after infection, but may occur up to 14 days after a person contracts the virus. Mild illness typically begins with respiratory symptoms and fever, sometimes with a slight cough and/or headache (non-specific flu-like symptoms).
Steps for Caregivers
A caregiver should not be someone who is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, when possible. Caregivers should follow the below tips to safely care for someone with COVID-19.
Wear mask, eye protection and disposable gloves when in the same room as someone sick with COVID-19. Throw away gloves, wash your hands and face, and change clothes immediately after exposure. Limit contact, when possible.
Watch for red-flag symptoms. Ensure the sick person gets sufficient fluids and rest. Keep their physician’s phone number handy, in case symptoms worsen and you need guidance.
Clean and disinfect common areas. If you need to clean and disinfect a sick person’s isolation space, do so only as needed; wear a mask and disposable gloves.
Separate and launder any clothing, bedding or towels exposed to a sick person; wear disposable gloves.
Monitor your health
Monitor your own health for COVID-19 symptoms while caring for a sick person for 14 days, and wear a mask around others. If you are not vaccinated, quarantine at home for at least 10 days without COVID-19 testing or 7 days with a negative test after Day 5. If you’re vaccinated, quarantine if you develop symptoms, plan to get a COVID-19 test 3 to 5 days after exposure (regardless of symptoms), and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days after exposure or until your test result returns as negative.
Take time to care for yourself. Get rest; connect with others (texts, phone calls or video chats); eat well; and hydrate.
If you are symptomatic and/or test positive for COVID-19, follow the guidance below for self-isolating and at-home treatment. Stay in touch with your doctor; if you experience any red flag symptoms, seek medical help immediately.
Avoid infecting others.
- Stay home. Don’t go to work, school or other public places. If you have to go out for medical care, call ahead, wear a face mask and practice physical distancing.
- Self-isolate from others in your household, including pets. Avoid sharing a bedroom or bathroom with others, is possible.
- Wear a face mask if you have to be around others at home. You do not have to wear a mask when alone, but do cover coughs and sneezes.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Do not share common items such as dishes, cups, utensils, towels or linens.
- If you are able, clean and disinfect your “sick room” and bathroom yourself; caregivers can disinfect common areas in the home. Disinfect high-touch surfaces (phones, remote controls, toilets, doorknobs, etc.) and any area that may have bodily fluids on it; wear disposable gloves.
- If you must share a bathroom with others, have them remove their toothbrushes and other toiletries.
- People with mild to moderate COVID-19 can end self-isolation 10 days after the onset of their symptoms, as long as they’ve gone 24 hours with no fever (without medication) and other COVID-19 symptoms are improving.
- Caregivers and fellow household members should: monitor for symptoms for 14 days; self-quarantine for 10 days if not vaccinated (or 7 days with negative test result after Day 5); and if vaccinated, they do not have to quarantine but should wear a mask in public and get tested 3 to 5 days after exposure.
- Use over-the-counter (OTC) pain and cough medications to relieve symptoms; a humidifier and hot showers also can be effective for respiratory relief.
- For headaches, body aches and fever, acetaminophen is recommended.
- Consult with your physician before taking ibuprofen. If allowed, ibuprofen can be alternated with acetaminophen every 6 hours to manage high fevers and intense pain.
- Purposefully cough to help clear lungs of mucus.
- Use gel cold packs, along with OTC medicines, to reduce fever. You can place the cold packs or ice packs on your chest, wrists, armpits, neck and head to help bring down a high temperature.
- If you have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other chronic respiratory illness, continue using your prescribed medications.
Prevent worsening illness.
- Rest, rest, rest. But don’t spend all your time lying down.
- Move. Aim to move around every hour: Sit up, stand up or walk around and inhale deeply to expand your lungs. This helps to prevent blood clots and secondary infections, like COVID pneumonia.
- Stay hydrated. Drink 68 to 100 ounces per day. Your body loses more water when you’re sick, and dehydration can worsen symptoms. Proper hydration helps your body recover and fight off illness.
- Eat nutrient-dense foods that are easy to prepare, such as store-bought, frozen meals or nutritional supplement drinks.
- Stay connected. Use phone calls, texting or video chats to get support from your team, healthcare providers and loved ones.
- Monitor and track your symptoms. Log your temperature, oximeter reading (oxygen level) and symptom severity at regular intervals; every 2 hours is recommended. Expect a higher temperature in the afternoon than early morning.
- Oximeter readings should be in the high 90s to 100. If any reading is in the low 90s or below, seek immediate medical attention; call ahead if possible.
What if Your Symptoms Worsen?
Full recovery from mild to moderate COVID-19 generally takes about a week, but it can take weeks, and some symptoms may linger for months.
If symptoms worsen or you experience any red flag symptoms — including chest pain, shortness of breath, fever spike, new confusion, etc. (see list above) — seek emergency care or call 9-1-1.
With the Delta variant, medical providers are seeing a rise in cases of COVID-19 pneumonia among all age groups.
"Make sure you're taking deep breaths, you're getting up, you're moving a little bit, you're not staying completely bedridden as that somewhat makes you more susceptible to COVID pneumonia," explained Sarasota Memorial Urgent Care physician Laura McGill, DO.
Click to view the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for: what to do if you’re sick and when to end quarantine / self-isolation.
** NOTE: This content was originally posted Aug. 24, 2021. COVID-19 information is continually evolving. For the most up to date info, visit the CDC website.
Written by Senior Digital Communications Specialist Ann Key, who manages Sarasota Memorial's digital content offerings, including the Healthe-Matters blog and newsletter, and social media channels.