What We Know So Far... Part 2

Family During COVID-19 Pandemic

My last post was about wearing a mask and why it can help protect your family as well as how it can slow the pandemic. But what if that failed, and now someone in your home tests positive for COVID-19? Is it too late to worry about spreading the disease to every family member? The short answer is no.

First, for children less than 10 years old, most of the research shows they are about 50% as likely to contract the coronavirus than someone who is over 10 years old. This is due, at least in part, to the lower expression of a receptor in the lining of the nose that the virus uses to enter into the host’s body. It does not make them immune, but it gives you some time to help prevent the spread in your household.

The steps which help prevent the transmission to family members will seem obvious after we list them, but are easily overlooked when someone gets diagnosed. First and foremost, while you are waiting for your test results you MUST act like you are positive. Those 3-4 days (and in some cases 7-8 days) that you are waiting to get your results are critical. If at all possible, the ill person should have their own bedroom and bathroom and should stay quarantined there until the symptoms are gone. If a separate area is not available then limit the number of family members that interact with the ill person. Both the sick individual and caregiver should wear a mask when they are around each other and wash their hands before and after each interaction. It is best to NOT use a humidifier or a nebulizer because it can help suspend the virus particles in the air for a longer period of time. If the patient has asthma and must use a nebulizer, then it should be in a separate room and no one should enter the room for approximately 2 hours after using the nebulizer. The ill person should eat in their room, and separate from anyone else (mainly because they have to take off a mask to eat and drink). They do not need to continuously wear a mask, but they should wear one whenever someone else is in the same room. If the sick person is able to stay in a separate room, then do not worry about disinfecting the area until the illness has passed - then clean and disinfect. If there is a shared bathroom, whenever possible the sick person should clean and disinfect the area after they use the area. If that is not possible, then a healthy person can go in after they are done, and while wearing a mask and gloves, clean and disinfect the area before someone else uses the bathroom.

If you follow these simple guidelines then the risk of transmission to another family member is reduced by 50%. Obviously, we would like to eliminate any household transmission, but the more careful you can be about these guidelines, and the earlier you implement them, the safer everyone in the home will be.

Next blog - What to expect (and watch for) if you get COVID-19.

Remember to leave any questions you may have in our comments section on Facebook!

- Craig Kopecky, M.D.

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