BY DR. RIAN VAN SCHALKWYK
What is self-isolation?
If you have been told to self-isolate, you will need to get to the place you are going to stay, remain there and avoid contact with other people. This will prevent you from spreading the disease to your family, friends and the wider community.
There are many consequences of self-isolation that you can plan for ahead of time, to make the process easier on you and your loved ones.
- Living arrangements
This is often the first and biggest challenge for many people. If you share your home with family or roommates, you need to ensure that you are completely separated from them during self-isolation.
Are you or your housemates able to live somewhere else for the time that you are ill?
If not, how will you divide up your living spaces to have minimal contact with each other?
It is important that you separate yourself from other people in your home. You should stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened, separate from other people in your home. If you share facilities like toilets and bathrooms, regular cleaning will be required. Also, regularly clean common surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, and kitchen counters. If possible, you should have your own cutlery, bedding and towels that is not shared with anyone.
- Medical Essentials – Medication & Home Treatment
You should always seek professional medical advice before taking any medicine to treat your symptoms. There are some basic things, however, that you can stock up in your medicine cabinet that are good to already have on hand if you go into self-isolation.
Paracetamol and ibuprofen can both help to ease pain and fever. Always follow the instructions on the medication pamphlet or speak to your doctor.
Additional advice from Namibian doctor Riaan van Schalkwyk for home-treatment is to gargle with betadine mouthwash three times a day, do steam inhalation with a hot water and vicks mixture, and do nasal rinses with added betadine drops.
Avoid lying flat on your back. Rather sleep on your side or tummy, which makes breathing easier. Do box breathing exercises to strengthen your lungs. Breathe in for 4 seconds through your nose, hold it in for 4 seconds and then exhale forcefully through pursed lips for 4 seconds. Do this 5 times, and on the 5th exhalation give two forceful coughs.
You can also practice blowing up a balloon with 3 breaths, or blow bubbles in a glass of water through a straw. This all helps exercise your lungs, and is something you can start doing even if you’re not sick.
- Everyday Essentials – Food & Water
There are some basic staples you can keep at home that should help you prepare simple meals, for at least the first few days before you need to top up. These include:
- Canned beans & vegetables
- Freeze a few loaves of bread
- Buy fresh veggies that are cut up (or do it yourself) and freeze them in Ziplock bags for quick prep. Almost all veggies can be frozen, but the ones that do best are corn, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, squash and winter greens such as spinach. Onions, peppers, celery and herbs can also be frozen.
- If you don’t have running water at home, it’s essential that you also stock up on at least one day’s water for drinking and bathing, which gives you time to have more delivered to you.
- Cooking When You’ve Got Covid
You’ll be isolated for at least 10 days, and if you’re very sick you won’t be in the mood for thinking over what to have for dinner. Do some basic meal planning now, and draw up a clear shopping list of things that can be delivered to your door when the time comes.
A top tip is to cook enough for two meals each time. You might not have a lot of energy for making meals each day. Take this into account when you do meal planning and drawing up your shopping list.
- Everyday Essentials – Deliveries
During self-isolation you won’t be able to leave your house. What products will you need to get regularly, and who will bring it to you?
Do you know which grocery stores in your area do online orders and deliveries? If not, it’s time to find out who does it, and how it works. If there aren’t any shops in your area, identify a friend, family member or other delivery service that can do the shopping for you and drop it at your door.
Identify a pharmacy from where you would want to order medicine, and contact them now already to find out how their payment systems work. Do they only accept cash on delivery, can you swipe or do you they accept payments through services like PayToday?
When in self-isolation, tell the person doing the deliveries that the items are to be left outside your door or at your gate – depending on your living arrangements. Do not invite them inside. Do not walk up to them to take the items. If possible, do not exchange cash.
- Get Organized – Transport
Focus on your daily routine for a minute. Where do your children or partner need to go every morning (work, school, nanny)? How do they usually get there? Is there anyone else that is dependent on your transport each day – like a colleague catching a lift to work? How does everyone get back home later?
If these transport routines are dependent on you, you will need to make alternative plans for the time you’re in self-isolation. Speak to your family and friends now already, and have a plan of action in the case that you need to self-isolate. We often take our transport routines for granted, but it can have a huge impact on your whole household if it’s changed.
- Essential Contacts
While in self-isolation, it’s important to keep track of how you feel each day and contact medical services if you have new or serious symptoms. If you notice any new symptoms, you can speak to a doctor telephonically to get advice on how to manage your symptoms or to seek help. Ensure that you have your doctor’s contact details and emergency numbers saved on your phone.
- Isolating with your family
In many cases, an entire household is ordered to isolate together. Or, only some family members isolate while others don’t need to. These are scenarios you need to consider beforehand and actively plan for.
If you have young children, how will you keep them occupied? How can each family member get some form of ‘me-time’ when you’re all stuck together in one house?
The answers depend on what your family likes, but is still something to consider beforehand.
- Asymptomatic and stuck at home
You might need to self-isolate for a while, even though you have no or only mild symptoms. What can you do, except watch TV? How do you stay sane?
- Many people say that keeping some sort of routine helped them to feel like there is order to their life, and motivated them to get out of bed each day.
- Call or text someone each day just to chat. Perhaps someone you haven’t been able to catch up with for a while, or someone close to you with who you can share your frustrations.
- If you have kids, set up video chat ‘play dates’ with school friends
- It’s the perfect time to organize that cluttered room or closet. Spring cleaning!
- Building puzzles, coloring in or reading are all calming activities.
- Develop a new skill – learn how to knit, sew, cook, or fix something.
- List Your Contacts
What did you have for dinner 6 nights ago? Can’t remember? Then start keeping a record of the people you have direct contact with and the places you visit now already. It will save you a lot of effort later on.
If you test positive for Covid-19, you may be asked who you’ve been in contact with and places you’ve visited in the last 14 days.
If you were exposed to someone else who tests positive, you may be asked details about your contact. Were you more than 2m apart? Where were you (closed meeting room or outside on the street)? Were you both wearing masks?
Try to get in the habit of making a note at the end of each day of these details, and it could save you lots of time. Even if health authorities don’t ask you for it, you should try to let everyone on the list know that you have tested positive, so that they can check their own health status.