With COVID19 all over the place, and communities trying to protect themselves with quarantines, what do you do if you’re the caretaker for a loved one who is ill right now? Maybe it’s a mild case of COVID19, or just a bad cold. Here are some basics, from your friendly, neighborhood nurse.
- Stay hydrated. Push fluids. Water, electrolyte drinks, broth, juice, or whatever they’ll drink. But keep the fluids coming all day long. Try to limit things with lots of added sugar like colas and some coffee drinks – the sugar feeds bacteria and viruses. But if ginger ale is all your loved one will drink, let them drink it.
- Protect the lungs. In hospitals we use incentive spirometers. At home we can use pinwheels, blowing bubbles, or blowing out candles (real or fake). The key is, we want the person with illness to be filling up their lungs and blowing out several times an hour while awake. Use commercial breaks, or turn it into a game during press conferences – whenever someone says “Chinese virus,” you blow imaginary spit-balls at him!
- Get moving. Being mobile is key to maintaining health. Get out of bed. Walk around. Sit in the living room and watch TV. But don’t spend the whole day in bed. Get outside when you can, even if just for a few minutes.
- Manage symptoms. Have a fever? Take some acetaminophen. NyQuil, Theraflu, or your favorite cold remedy is just fine. Hot tea with honey, throat lozenges, a well-maintained (cleaned) humidifier are all good ideas.
- Stay home. Unless you’re headed out to see the doctor because you already called and they told you to come in, anything else can be done from home. Need something from the store? Send a neighbor, friend, or family member. Feeling bored? Stream some movies or TV shows. Need your favorite dish from the Italian place down the street? Find someone to deliver it. Stay home when sick to keep from spreading contagions around the community.
- Rest. Yes, you’re right, we did say to get moving a few bullet points ago. But all things in moderation, right? Don’t overdo it. Just because you can do the entire Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry in one day doesn’t mean you need to. Pace yourself, rest, and allow your body time to heal.
- Avoid the things that your immune system doesn’t like. Your immune system doesn’t like sugar. Alcohol is a sugar. Your immune system doesn’t like alcohol. Avoid sugar and alcohol. On the other hand, make sure you’re eating protein, vitamin C, and getting some vitamin D through dietary or supplemental sources.
Those are the big things, friends. Take care of yourself, take care of each other. If someone in the house is sick (or is healthy, but immunocompromised), wipe down high-touch surfaces frequently. And maintain social distancing. It really does help. We’ll get through this.