Quarantine

Home guide

 

During the COVID-19 outbreak, individuals who might have been at risk of exposure to the virus but are not displaying any symptoms (or may have tested positive but are also not displaying symptoms) could be required to remain at home and self-isolate or self-quarantine for 14 days or more. 

If you still feel well during your self-quarantine period, it is important to remain connected to others socially and not become completely socially isolated.  Going online or texting and calling others can be a vital part of keeping your spirits up and others aware of how you are doing.

 

I​f you do begin to feel unwell and develop a fever, shortness of breath, cough or other respiratory symptoms you should immediately isolate yourself from others (if you haven’t already), follow infection control guidelines and contact your nearest medical facility to arrange a visit when you will pose the least risk of possibly infecting others. 

Put a plan in place

The Better Health Channel, an initiative by the Australian Government, makes the following recommendations on how to put a self-quarantine plan in place:

 

  • Try to have some non-perishable food items in the pantry. Keeping some long-life alternatives to perishable groceries, such as "powdered and UHT milk, tinned fruit and frozen vegetables".

  • "Have a supply of disposable tissues, antibacterial wipes and latex gloves."

  • "Check that your first aid kit includes a thermometer and paracetamol (to reduce fever)."

  • "Make sure you have enough of any prescription and non-prescription medication you need to last a couple of weeks."

  • "Talk with friends and relatives who don’t live with you about supporting each other if one household has to be quarantined. For example, agree to drop groceries or other supplies at the front door.”

 

Isolation and quarantine are not the same things. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick”, whereas “quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.”

According to Queensland Health, to self-quarantine is to stay at home, a hotel or other provided accommodation and not leave this place for the period of time you have been instructed. “Only people who usually live in the household should be in the home. Do not allow visitors into the home.”

MIT Medical suggests that if you are required to self-quarantine you should do the following: 

  • Report any symptoms of COVID-19 immediately to a health professional. 

  • “Stay in your room, apartment or house. Do not go to work, classes, athletic events, or other social or religious gatherings until [after] 14 days.” 

  • Limit contact with other people. This includes isolating yourself as much as possible from anyone living in your residence.”

  • “Cover coughs and sneezes with your upper arm or a tissue. Never cough in the direction of someone else.”

  • “Wash your hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rubs after coughing or sneezing or throwing a used tissue in the garbage.”

  • “Avoid sharing household items. Do not share drinking glasses, towels, eating utensils, bedding, or any other items until you are no longer asked to self-quarantine.”

  • Keep the surroundings clean. “While the virus is not spread very well from contact with soiled household surfaces, try to clean surfaces that you share with others, such as doorknobs, telephones, and bathroom surfaces (or any other object that you sneeze or cough on), with a standard household disinfectant. Wash your hands after cleaning the area.”

 

Home quarantine the healthy way

If you are required to home quarantine for 14 days or more, it may be tempting to spend that time sitting all day watching series or catching up on work but there is no reason to adopt sedentary behaviour just because you’re at home. 

According to Medical News Today, sedentary behaviour can contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. You can reduce sedentary behaviour in the following ways, according to the medical news resource: 

  • Take regular walks if it is safe to do so (even just around the house)

  • Don’t sit for longer than 30 minutes at a stretch

  • Do chores around the house like DIY and gardening

  • Minimise time watching television and playing video games

  • Get up and walk around during television commercials

  • Stand as you work or watch television

 

Stay active and hold yourself accountable for the foods you eat during this time too.  Having access to your kitchen all day shouldn’t be an excuse to eat all the wrong things.

 

Mental wellbeing during quarantine

You can use this time in quarantine to also focus on your physical and mental health. Queensland Health suggests keeping your spirits up during this time in the following ways:  

  • “Talk to the other members of the family about the infection. Understanding novel coronavirus will reduce anxiety.

  • Reassure young children using age-appropriate language.

  • Keep up a normal daily routine as much as possible.

  • Think about how you have coped with difficult situations in the past and reassure yourself that you will cope with this situation too. Remember that quarantine won’t last for long.

  • Keep in touch with family members and friends via telephone, email or social media.

  • Exercise regularly. Options could include exercise DVDs, dancing, floor exercises, yoga, walking around the backyard or using home exercise equipment, such as a stationary bicycle, if you have one. Exercise is a proven treatment for stress and depression.”

 

In a recent press briefing, WHO Regional Director Dr Hans Kluge offered insights on tools, techniques and interventions to address mental health issues that may arise. He said that the disruptive effects of COVID-19, including social distancing and in some cases, lockdown, necessitate the need to pay close attention to the anxiety and fears we may be feeling.

Dr Kluge stressed the importance of keeping in touch with family and friends, through calls and video chats. In particular, he advises that special attention be paid to children and the elderly, as both groups of people will have different mental health challenges to face.

 

Children may be experiencing enormous disruption to their lives, due to school closures, as they may no longer feel the sense of structure and stimulation provided by that environment. They are also very perceptive to the emotions and moods of those around them. It is vital to give them structure and routine, as well as keeping them informed on what is happening in a simple, understandable way.

 

Many older people or those with underlying medical conditions may be extremely frightened as they are constantly being told they are vulnerable. Feelings of anxiety and stress could be more difficult to deal with for older people experiencing dementia or cognitive decline. Social isolation can increase feelings of loneliness, so it’s very important to maintain contact and encourage elderly people to engage in activities that give them a sense of achievement.

 

Remember, physical distancing is not social isolation.

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