COVID-19: How to care at home for someone who has or may have been exposed

Public health advice across Canada varies widely due to local situations, which are rapidly changing. It's important that you continue to follow the recommendations and requirements of your local public health authority, including isolation and quarantine requirements.

Advice for caregivers at home and household members of people who have or may have been exposed to COVID-19.

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Supplies

Supplies you'll need when someone is quarantining or isolating at home include:

You'll also need hygiene products, such as:

Read and follow manufacturer's instructions for safe use of cleaning and disinfection products.

Stock your home with supplies in advance in case you or someone in your household needs to quarantine or isolate. Reach out to family, friends or neighbours if you can't get these supplies. You can also contact your local public health authority or a community organization for advice, support and resources.

Provide care at a place that has access to running water whenever possible. This will make it easier to practise hand washing, cleaning and disinfecting, and laundering.

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Reducing the risk of spread in the household

You and your household members should layer multiple individual public health measures if someone is quarantining or isolating at home. This is especially important due to variants of concern that are circulating in Canada.

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Physical distancing

Limit the amount of time you spend in a shared space with the person in quarantine or isolation. Some people may need you to spend more time with them depending on their:

  • age
  • maturity
  • ability to understand and follow prevention measures

Where possible, avoid activities like:

  • playing games together
  • sitting or cuddling together
  • watching television together
  • having meals at the same table

Limit your interactions with the person in quarantine or isolation and keep them brief. Maximize your physical distance as much as possible.

Sleep in a separate room from the person in quarantine or isolation. If not possible:

  • sleep in separate beds
  • position yourselves head to toe
  • keep the room well ventilated

Use a separate washroom from the person in quarantine or isolation. If not possible, ensure surfaces and objects the person you're caring for has touched are cleaned and disinfected after each use, like:

  • toilets
  • sink faucets
  • door handles

Wearing a respirator

Household members should wear a respirator (like an N95 or KN95) when sharing a space with the person who is in quarantine or isolation.

This is even more important for household members that are:

  • at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19
  • living in an overcrowded setting

The person who is in quarantine or isolation should also wear a respirator when they:

  • have to leave their quarantine or isolation location
  • are in a shared indoor space by themselves or with others
  • are in a shared outdoor space with household members
  • are receiving care

If a respirator is unavailable in these situations, wear a well-fitting medical mask. If neither are available, properly wear a well-constructed and well-fitting non-medical mask.

Children in the household should follow mask advice for their age group.

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Ventilation

Open windows when possible, and use heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to improve ventilation. This reduces the spread of particles indoors that could be infectious.

If you have to interact with the person in quarantine or isolation, go outside when possible, such as:

  • in a private backyard
  • on a balcony

Follow physical distancing and masking advice when doing so.

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Cleaning and disinfecting

How long the COVID-19 virus lives on different surfaces and objects is unclear. Research shows that the virus may live on surfaces and objects for a few hours or up to several days depending on:

  • the type of surface or object
  • environmental factors such as humidity and temperature

It's uncertain how much of a role contaminated surfaces or objects play in the spread of COVID-19. We recommend taking precautions when someone in the home has or may have COVID-19.

Ensure all high-touch surfaces and objects in your home are cleaned and disinfected more frequently, including:

  • toilets
  • phones
  • doorknobs
  • bedside tables
  • television remotes
  • laundry containers

Wear a respirator (or if unavailable, a well-fitting medical mask) when cleaning or disinfecting in spaces the person in quarantine or isolation has occupied. This includes spaces like sleeping areas and washrooms.

Use approved hard-surface disinfectants that have a drug identification number (DIN) or a diluted bleach solution. Always follow instructions for proper handling of household bleach (chlorine).

Disinfect high-touch electronic devices more frequently with 70% alcohol, such as alcohol prep wipes. If they can withstand liquids, use cleaning products made for electronics on items like:

  • tablets
  • phones
  • keyboards
  • smartphones

Use separate no-touch plastic-lined containers for:

  • contaminated laundry, including non-medical masks
  • used respirators and medical masks and other contaminated disposable items

Secure the items in the liner and dispose of or wash the items immediately. You can wash items belonging to the person in quarantine or isolation with other laundry. Wash them with regular laundry soap and hot water (60°C to 90°C), then dry well.

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Avoid sharing items

As much as possible, avoid sharing personal items with the person in quarantine or isolation, including:

  • towels
  • bed linens
  • toothbrushes
  • eating utensils
  • food and drinks
  • electronic devices

If the person in quarantine or isolation is a child, prevent them from sharing objects with other children in the household, like:

  • toys
  • bottles
  • blankets
  • soothers

Providing care

There may be different advice if you or any of your household members are vaccinated against COVID-19. Follow the instructions from your local public health authority.

Ideally, only one person should provide care to someone who is in quarantine or isolation. This will help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading to others in the household. If possible, the caregiver shouldn't have risk factors that put them at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19.

If you're caring for someone, protect yourself by following prevention measures when in direct physical contact or during close interactions.

Whether the person you're caring for is in quarantine or isolation, you should both wear a respirator. If unavailable, wear a well-fitting medical mask. If neither respirators nor medical masks are available, you should both properly wear a non-medical mask that's well constructed and well fitting.

If you're caring for a child, they:

Other prevention measures include:

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Eye protection

Eye protection should not replace the use of a respirator or mask. Wear it over prescription eyeglasses and put it on after putting on a respirator or mask.

To remove eye protection:

  1. wash your hands
  2. remove eye protection by handling:
    • the arms of the safety glasses or goggles or
    • sides or back of a face shield

The front of your protective items are contaminated, so do not touch them.

To discard eye protection:

  1. if disposable: place into a plastic-lined waste container
  2. if reusable: clean it with soap and water and then disinfect it with approved hard-surface disinfectants
    • if unavailable, use a diluted bleach solution
  3. wash your hands

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Disposable gloves

You do not have to wear disposable single-use gloves if you're providing care at home. It's better to regularly wash or sanitize your hands.

If you choose to wear disposable gloves, clean your hands before and after using them when touching:

  • the person you're caring for
  • things the person you're caring for has touched

If your gloves become soiled or torn during care, remove them, clean your hands and put on a new pair.

To remove gloves safely:

  1. pull off the first glove from the fingertips using your opposite hand
  2. as you're pulling, form the glove into a ball within the palm of your gloved hand
  3. slide your ungloved hand in under the wrist of your second glove and gently roll it inside out, and away from your body
  4. avoid touching the outside of the gloves with your bare hands
  5. discard the gloves in a plastic-lined waste container and clean your hands

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Monitoring symptoms and seeking medical care

Watch for new or worsening symptoms in:

Call 911 or your local emergency number if anyone develops severe symptoms, such as:

If the person you're caring for needs to leave your home or co-living setting for medical care, follow safe transportation advice.

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Your quarantine period

You may need to quarantine if you:

Examples of exposure include if you have:

Follow all quarantine instructions

There may be different quarantine requirements if you or any of your other household members are vaccinated against COVID-1Children in the household should follow mask advice for 9. Follow the instructions from your local public health authority.

If you develop symptoms, follow all isolation instructions

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