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Last updated on Jun 11th, 2021 at 08:52 pm

With thousands of new COVID-19 infections occurring daily in South Africa amidst the second wave of coronavirus, have you thought about what would happen if you do get the virus and have to self-isolate for 10 days, or even worse, have to go to hospital?

“While more than 80% of people are only likely to be mildly ill with COVID-19, there are still things that you should plan and organise if you have to self-isolate at home for the obligatory 10 days. So, it’s well worth doing a bit of ‘scenario planning’ and consider the things that you’ll need to put in place if you do contract the infection,” says Geraldine Bartlett, a qualified pharmacists and chief professional officer at Universal Healthcare.

“As none of us ultimately know how seriously we may get the disease, it may be sensible to plan ahead in the event that we become one of those unfortunate enough to require hospitalisation. This is particularly important if you are a single parent living with young children, or if you’re at risk of developing a more serious COVID-19 infection,” she says.

ALSO SEE: How to sanitize your home to protect your family against COVID-19

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Top tips for contingency planning

Geraldine believes it’s important for all South Africans to prepare for the possibility of becoming infected and shares these tips on how to plan for such an eventuality.

  • If you live with a partner, or other family members, talk about what they should do in the event that you do get sick. Together you can plan who will prepare the meals, do the laundry, go out to do the shopping, take the children to school, walk the dogs, and so on.
  • Identify a specific room or part of the house where you can stay separated from the rest of the household while in isolation. If this is not possible then it will be important to wear surgical masks inside your home. Ideally, you should also have your own designated bathroom but if you have to share, make sure you carefully clean the facilities after every use.
  • If you are a single parent, make plans regarding who would look after your children if you have to go to hospital. Discuss these contingencies with the individual beforehand. If you have pets, make plans about who will care for them if you need to go to hospital.
  • Remember, people over the age of 60 and those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung disease, cancer, and kidney failure, are at higher risk of getting seriously ill if they get infected. So if you’re living with an older parent, for example, it’s a good idea to plan for them to stay somewhere else while you are self-isolating.

What is involved when self-isolating?

Fortunately, most people who get COVID-19 will have only a mild illness and should recover at home. If you have been asked to self-isolate at home, you should:

  • Stay at home for 10 days
  • Not go to work
  • Not leave your home to go anywhere, except for medical care
  • Not have visitors to your home; rather keep in touch with your family, friends and colleagues by phone, email and/or social media
  • Ask family or friends to help get/buy things you need such as groceries or medicines.

Stocking up for self-isolation

Geraldine advises stocking up on items you’ll need if you have to be in self-isolation at home for 10 days. These include your chronic medicines, paracetamol, throat spray, toiletries, and sufficient non-perishable foods.

“Monitor your symptoms carefully. This is particularly important if you are at greater risk of developing a serious disease. If your symptoms are getting worse, your symptoms have not improved after seven days, or if you have any symptoms that are concerning to you, call your doctor.”

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What if you need to go to hospital?

Make a list of important things such as your doctor’s telephone number, the contact details of the nearest, or preferred, hospital and emergency service, your medical scheme details, and a list of the chronic medicines you are taking. Keep this list on hand and give a copy to the person who will help you if your illness suddenly becomes worse.

If you develop any of following warning signs, you or someone in your household should call your nearest hospital or emergency service and tell them you have a confirmed case of COVID-19 disease:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain or pressure in your chest that doesn’t go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Becoming confused
  • Severe sleepiness (inability to wake or stay awake)
  • Blue lips or face.

More about the expert:

Geraldine Bartlett is a qualified pharmacist and chief professional officer at Universal Healthcare. Learn more about Geraldine Bartlett here.