Caring for Someone Sick at Home

Caring for Someone Sick at Home

Advice for caregivers in non-healthcare settings

If you are caring for someone with COVID-19 at home or in a non-healthcare setting, follow this advice to protect yourself and others. Learn what to do when someone has symptoms of COVID-19. or when someone has been diagnosed with the virus. This information also should be followed when caring for people who have tested positive but are not showing symptoms.

*Note: Older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for developing more severe illness from COVID-19. People at higher risk of severe illness should call their doctor as soon as symptoms start.

Provide support

Help cover basic needs
Latina woman drinking hot tea while sick

Make sure the person who is sick drinks a lot of fluids and rests

  • Help the person who is sick follow their doctor’s instructions for care and medicine.
    • For most people, symptoms last a few days, and people usually feel better after a week.
  • See if over-the-counter medicines for fever help the person feel better.
  • Make sure the person who is sick drinks a lot of fluids and rests.
  • Help them with grocery shopping, filling prescriptions, and getting other items they may need. Consider having the items delivered through a delivery service, if possible.
  • Take care of their pet(s), and limit contact between the person who is sick and their pet(s) when possible.
Watch for warning signs
  • Call their doctor if the person keeps getting sicker. For medical emergencies, call 911 and tell the dispatcher that the person has or might have COVID-19.
When to seek emergency medical attention

Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.

Protect yourself

Limit contact
Young sick man in bed cleaning snotty nose

Keep a separate bedroom and bathroom for a person who is sick

COVID-19 spreads between people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets, created when someone talks, coughs or sneezes. Staying away from others helps stop the spread of COVID-19.

The caregiver, when possible, should not be someone who is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

The person who is sick should isolate

The sick person should separate themselves from others in the home. Learn when and how to isolate.

  • If possible, have the person who is sick use a separate bedroom and bathroom. If possible, have the person who is sick stay in their own “sick room” or area and away from others. Try to stay at least 6 feet away from the sick person.
  • Shared space: If you have to share space, make sure the room has good air flow.
    • Open the window to increase air circulation.
    • Improving ventilation helps remove respiratory droplets from the air.
  • Avoid having visitors. Avoid having any unnecessary visitors, especially visits by people who are at higher risk for severe illness.

Caregivers should quarantine

Caregivers and anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should stay home. Learn when and how to quarantine.

When it's safe for a person who has been sick to be around others

Deciding when it is safe to be around others is different for different situations. Find out when someone who is sick can safely end home isolation.

Eat in separate rooms or areas
  • Stay separated: The person who is sick should eat (or be fed) in their room, if possible.
  • Wash dishes and utensils using gloves and hot water: Handle any dishes, cups/glasses, or silverware used by the person who is sick with gloves. Wash them with soap and hot water or in a dishwasher.
  • Clean hands after taking off gloves or handling used items.
Avoid sharing personal items
  • Do not share: Do not share dishes, cups/glasses, silverware, towels, bedding, or electronics (like a cell phone) with the person who is sick.
When to wear a mask or gloves

The person who is sick

  • The person who is sick should wear a mask when they are around other people at home and out (including before they enter a doctor’s office).
  • The mask helps prevent a person who is sick from spreading the virus to others. It keeps respiratory droplets contained and from reaching other people.
  • masks should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is not able to remove the covering without help.

Caregiver

  • Put on a mask and ask the sick person to put on a mask  before entering the room.
  • Wear gloves when you touch or have contact with the sick person’s blood, stool, or body fluids, such as saliva, mucus, vomit, and urine. Throw out gloves into a lined trash can and wash your hands right away.
    • Practice everyday preventive actions to keep from getting sick:  wash your hands often; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; and frequently clean and disinfect surfaces.

Note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, medical grade masks are reserved for healthcare workers and some first responders.

Clean your hands often
  • Wash hands: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Tell everyone in the home to do the same, especially after being near the person who is sick.
  • Hand sanitizer: If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Hands off: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Learn more about handwashing.
Clean and then disinfect
Cleaning with spray detergent, rubber gloves and dish cloth on work surface

Clean and disinfect “high-touch” surfaces and items every day

Around the house

  • Clean and disinfect “high-touch” surfaces and items every day: This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks, and electronics.
  • Clean the area or item with soap and water if it is dirty. Then, use a household disinfectant.
    • Be sure to follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product. Many products recommend keeping the surface wet for several minutes to kill germs. Many also recommend wearing gloves, making sure you have good air flow, and wiping or rinsing off the product after use.
    • Most household disinfectants should be effective. See a list of EPA-registered disinfectantsexternal icon.
    • To clean electronics, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products. If those directions are not available, use alcohol-based wipes or spray containing at least 70% alcohol.
    • Learn more about cleaning and disinfecting your home.

Bedroom and bathroom

  • If you are using a separate bedroom and bathroom: Only clean the area around the person who is sick when needed, such as when the area is soiled. This will help limit your contact with the sick person.
    • If they feel up to it, the person who is sick can clean their own space. Give the person who is sick personal cleaning supplies such as tissues, paper towels, cleaners, and EPA-registered disinfectantsexternal icon.
  • If sharing a bathroom: The person who is sick should clean and then disinfect after each use. If this is not possible, wear a mask and wait as long as possible after the sick person has used the bathroom before coming in to clean and use the bathroom.
Wash and dry laundry
  • Do not shake dirty laundry.
  • Wear disposable gloves while handling dirty laundry.
  • Dirty laundry from a person who is sick can be washed with other people’s items.
  • Wash items according to the label instructions. Use the warmest water setting you can.
  • Remove gloves, and wash hands right away.
  • Dry laundry, on hot if possible, completely.
  • Wash hands after putting clothes in the dryer.
  • Clean and disinfect clothes hampers. Wash hands afterwards.
Use lined trash can
teenage girl in quarantine, wearing protective mask and gloves, in her hands she carries two garbage bags

Use gloves when handling trash

  • Place used disposable gloves and other contaminated items in a lined trash can.
  • Use gloves when removing garbage bags, and handling and disposing of trash. Wash hands afterwards.
  • Place all used disposable gloves, masks, and other contaminated items in a lined trash can.
  • If possible, dedicate a lined trash can for the person who is sick.
Track your own health
  • Caregivers should stay home and monitor their health for COVID-19 symptoms while caring for the person who is sick.
    • Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath but other symptoms may be present as well. Trouble breathing is a more serious warning sign that you need medical attention.
  • Caregivers should continue to stay home after care is complete. Caregivers can leave their home 14 days after their last close contact with the person who is sick (based on the time it takes to develop illness), or 14 days after the person who is sick meets the criteria to end home isolation.
  • Use CDC’s self-checker tool to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.
  • If you are having trouble breathing, call 911.
    • Call your doctor or emergency room and tell them your symptoms before going in. They will tell you what to do.