Everything you need to know about self-isolating for coronavirus

From whether you should avoid your housemates to going for walks outside, we asked a doctor for advice.

self-isolating for coronavirus

It’s likely you’ll have heard the term ‘self-isolate’ a fair bit over the last few weeks, as cases of coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) have been reported across the world. You may also have spotted people wearing surgical masks too, despite there being little evidence that they’re beneficial.

It seems like the official guidelines on what to do change almost daily at the moment, with many employers now advising staff to work from home where possible… but if (like many) you’re still confused about what self-isolating involves – including whether or not it’s okay to do things like hang out with your housemates or pop to the shops – we asked Dr Daniel Atkinson, Clinical Lead for online health service, Treated, to answer the most common questions.

Should I self-isolate because of coronavirus?

For coronavirus to be successfully contained, it relies on people taking self-isolation seriously. The NHS has set out some guidelines about what to do – and what not to do – if you end up in this position. Current advice states that you should self-isolate if you – or somebody you live with – have a cough or a fever (or if told to by a medical professional for any other reason) for 14 days. Some people are voluntarily choosing to socially distance themselves, as encouraged by the government, which is a different thing to self-isolation (and is less restrictive).

‘Whilst it’s not official advice for the elderly and those with health conditions to self-isolate regardless, the measures in place are there to protect those most vulnerable to the virus,’ says Dr Atkinson, who has been a practicing GP for over fifteen years. ‘As a precautionary measure, the elderly and more vulnerable should consider staying at home, and getting other people to get their groceries and any medication they need. Ensure your cupboards at home have the things you’ll need during this period.’

So, if you are one of those who needs to self-isolate, here’s what it actually involves:

Do:

    • Try to keep at least 2 metres from other people in your home, particularly older people or those with long-term health conditions
    • Ask friends and family and delivery services to deliver things like food shopping and medicines – but avoid contact with them
    • Sleep alone if possible
    • Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
    • Try to stay away from older people and those with long-term health conditions
    • Drink plenty of water and take everyday painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, to help with your symptoms

Don’t:

  • Invite visitors to your home or allow visitors to enter
  • Go to work, school or public areas
  • Use public transport like buses, trains, or taxis
  • Share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding or other items with other people in your home
coronavirus handwashing song
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How long should I self-isolate for if I have symptoms, such as a fever or a cough?

‘Isolate yourself for seven days from when your symptoms start,’ says Dr Atkinson. ‘At the end of this period, if you are feeling better, or you no longer have a fever, you will be able to return to your normal routine.’ Of course if you’ve personally been advised otherwise by a medical professional, do follow those guidelines instead. If your symptoms persist beyond a week call the National Coronavirus Hotline 0800 029 999, the Provincial hotline 021 928 4102 or WhatsApp “Hi” to 060 012 3456.

Can I go for a walk by myself if I’m self-isolating?

No, you should not leave the house or have any visitors to your home during a period of self-isolation.

Can I go to the grocery store if I don’t stand near anybody for too long?

Again, as it is advised that you don’t leave home at all, sadly the grocery store is also a big no-no if you’re self-isolating, says Dr Atkinson. ‘You should ask someone else to get the things that you need and bring them to you. When they deliver your groceries, they should leave them outside your door to avoid any unnecessary contact.’

Can you be around your partner or housemates if you’re self-isolating, or showing symptoms of coronavirus?

Sadly not. ‘You should stay away from your partner as much as possible and you should sleep alone,’ says Dr Atkinson. Same goes for housemates – no joint movie nights if any of you are showing signs such as a cough or fever, or are self-isolating.

coronavirus self-isolating
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Is it safe to order takeaway food if you’re self-isolating?

‘You can still order takeaway food, but you should be very careful when it comes to delivery,’ advises Dr Atkinson, who suggests paying by card where possible, to avoid having to hand over cash to the delivery person. ‘Avoid touching the delivery driver at all costs.’

Can you answer a knock at the door if you’re self-isolating?

Yes, you can open the door when someone knocks but – as you might imagine – it’s best if you stay as far away from them as possible, to avoid spreading the virus. The NHS website says to stay at least 2 metres (or 3 steps) away from other people during a period of self-isolation.

Can you see friends who are also self-isolating?

No, unfortunately you will not be able to see your friends who are also in self-isolation, as you should not leave the house.

Is it safe to visit elderly relatives or people with previous health conditions, even if you have no symptoms?

Unfortunately, says Dr Atkinson, right now it’s probably better that you don’t visit older relatives, or those with health conditions that could see them classed as high risk to developing complications from the virus. ‘Even if you have no symptoms, or your symptoms are not very obvious, it’s probably safest for everyone to avoid contact. The elderly and those with underlying health conditions [such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or those with compromised immune systems] are at higher risk when it comes to COVID-19, as they are more vulnerable.’

Keep looking out for one another, guys.

The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it’s possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation.

This post originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com.

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