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With the number of COVID-19 cases rising considerably in India and the peak still far away, there is understandable fear and uncertainty across the country. There have been reports from major cities like Delhi and Mumbai of hospitals being stretched to their limits.

(Read more: COVID-19 timeline in India)

 As far as possible, the authorities are allowing patients to recover at home: COVID-19 symptoms are mild in the majority of cases and hospitalization is not required. People stay at home and self-isolate and recover in some time. In the best-case scenario, symptoms pass within a week and the person feels much better. 

(Read more: Self-care tips during a pandemic)

Remember that while being diagnosed with COVID-19 can be scary, the vast majority of cases are resolved without any difficulty. There is help available in the form of family and friends—if you are overcome with anxiety, reach out virtually to your support network and get through the crisis together. Also, keep your doctor clued in about your mental health status and your symptoms.

Here are some practical tips for those tackling the virus at home—for both the patients and their caregivers:

  1. Know when to get medical help in COVID-19
  2. Get rest and drink plenty of fluids
  3. Distance yourself from other family members
  4. Keep your room cool and use a humidifier
  5. Some tips to ease breathing
  6. Keep a check on your mental health

The symptoms of COVID-19 include:

Note that this is an evolving list and we are learning new things about the pathogen daily.

(Read more: Mild and severe COVID-19 symptoms)

Variations of the above symptoms will be seen in mild to moderate cases. The following are more serious signs: 

  • Difficulty breathing, which could be a sign of hypoxemia or low blood oxygen levels. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, it might be a good idea to invest in a pulse oximeter: it is a simple device that uses infrared light to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood. If the oxygen saturation on a pulse oximeter goes below 94%, it's time to call the doctor.
  • Sharp pain in the chest
  • Neurological symptoms of COVID-19 like confusion and altered mental state
  • Bluish lips or face 
  • Inability to stay awake or wake up.

If you develop any of these symptoms, quickly get medical help. Serious cases cannot be handled at home.

(Read more: How to take care of a COVID-19 patient at home: government guidelines)

Staying put at home is important because you are contagious and going out may expose others to the virus. Also, staying at home allows you to get plenty of rest, which is crucial to recovery. Make sure that you are not exerting yourself and are only focusing on relaxing. 

Keep yourself hydrated, preferably with water. Also take medicines to relieve fever, headache and cough. Your doctor is best placed to recommend the right medicines for you. (Do not self-medicate under any circumstances. The treatment for COVID-19 can vary greatly depending on the severity of the disease. For example, while steroids might help in very severe illness, they could also make you sicker if you have mild illness.)

(Read more: Home remedies for symptomatic relief in mild COVID-19).

You should stay in your room and shun physical contact with everyone except for one caretaker. This involves eating your meals in the room, and using a separate bathroom if possible. Do not share any dishes or personal items such as bedding or clothes with family members. 

(Read more: Biomedical waste disposal of patients recovering at home).

Your laundry can be done in the same washing machine. However, the caregiver must handle dirty clothes with gloves and use the highest heat settings on the washing machine. The gloves should then be disposed of safely and hands should be washed thoroughly. Your caretaker should not shake out the dirty clothes since this might release the virus in the air; while the World Health Organization hasn't yet confirmed whether airborne transmission of COVID-19 is possible, it is best to stay safe. 

(Read more: Droplet transmission).

You should make sure you use a mask and stay at least six feet away from your caretaker. Disinfect surfaces that are touched often with household bleach or other disinfectants. (Read more: How long do coronaviruses last on various surfaces?).

To wash dishes or clean your room, ensure that your caretaker uses gloves and disposes of them safely afterwards.

In general, you must very strictly maintain physical distancing and be extremely careful about not transmitting the virus. Regular hand washing for at least 20 seconds for both the patients and caregivers is also crucial for this.

(Read more: Best disinfectants against the coronavirus).

Also, limit guests during this time. High-risk populations such as the elderly or those with underlying conditions must not act as caregivers.

(Read more: COVID-19 prevention tips for the elderly and the immunocompromised).

A cooler room is better if you are feeling a little short of breath. You do not need to turn the AC all the way up, but make sure that the room is comfortable for you.

Dry air can also worsen a sore throat, so use a humidifier if you have one. Otherwise, a hot bath is also helpful and soothing. 

Since you will be limited to your room for many days, it is a good idea to change it up a little. Open the windows when the weather permits and let in some fresh air. 

Also, avoid lying on your back for extended periods of time, especially if you are coughing. It is a better idea to lie on your side or sit up if you have a coughing fit.

(Read more: Home-based care for people who have recovered from COVID-19)

Breathe in slowly through your nose, make an "O" with your mouth and exhale through your mouth. Keep doing this until you feel better. 

It also helps to sit upright in a chair and lean forward slightly. 

Keep a pulse oximeter handy and monitor your oxygen levels throughout the day. You should keep your doctor posted about them. A reading below 92 is cause for concern (but this may vary for people), so inform your doctor of any low readings.

A lot of the battle against COVID-19 takes place in the mind. There are some practical things you can do to help yourself:

  • Maintain a routine. Bathe daily and get into clean clothes. Read books you have been putting off for a while and listen to new music, catch up with old friends 
  • Avoid COVID-19 news and try focusing on the positive side of things 
  • Don’t exert yourself too much and focus on getting better and recovering
  • Sleep as much as you can and make your room comfortable
  • Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated—this will help your mood as well
  • If mindfulness activities work for you, now is the right time to try them
  • Maintain a journal to write about your thoughts and feelings and reflect on what all is going on around you
  • Most importantly, keep your friends and family close. Do not go through this time alone and rely on the people who love you. (Read more: Ways to stay in touch while maintaining social distancing

(Read more: Mental health tips during COVID-19)

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References

  1. CDC [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; What to Do If You Are Sick
  2. CDC [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; How to Protect Yourself & Others
  3. NHS [Internet]. National Health Services; How to treat coronavirus symptoms at home
  4. MoHFW [Internet]. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India; Guidelines for home quarantine
  5. MoHFW [Internet]. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India; Revised guidelines for Home Isolation of very mild/pre-symptomatic COVID-19 cases
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