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

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Supplies

Stock your home with supplies in advance in case someone in your household needs to isolate or quarantine. Supplies include:

You should also make sure you have:

If you can’t get these supplies, reach out to family, friends or neighbours. You can also contact your local public health authority or a community organization for advice, support and resources.

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, provide care at a place that has access to running water whenever possible.

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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. If possible, the caregiver should be fully vaccinated and not have medical conditions that put them at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19. This will help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading to others in the household.

You should not provide care if you’re at risk of severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19.

Protect yourself when providing care by following prevention measures when you’re in direct physical contact or during close-range interactions.

Wear a medical mask if the person you’re caring for has tested positive or has symptoms and is in isolation. The person you’re caring for should also wear a medical mask. If medical masks aren’t available, you should both wear a non-medical mask that’s well constructed and well fitting

Wear a non-medical mask if the person you’re caring for was potentially exposed to COVID-19 and is in quarantine. The person you’re caring for should also wear a non-medical mask.

Other prevention measures include:

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Eye protection

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

To remove eye protection:

  1. wash your hands
  2. remove eye protection by handling the arms of the goggles or sides or back of a face shield
    • the front of these items are contaminated

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. Frequent hand washing is preferred.

If you choose to wear disposal gloves, wash your hands before and after using them when:

  • touching the person you’re caring for or
  • touching things the person you’re caring for has touched

If your gloves become soiled or torn during care, remove them 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 wash your hands

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Protecting yourself and others in your home

All members of your household should strictly use multiple personal preventive practices at once. This is called a layered approach and it helps to protect yourself and others. This is especially important with the 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 (like the same room) with the person you’re caring for. 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

Keep all interactions with the person you’re caring for brief and from the greatest physical distance possible.

Use a separate room for sleeping from the person you’re caring for. If not possible, sleep in separate beds. Position yourselves head-to-toe to keep as far away from one another as possible.

Use a separate washroom from the person you’re caring for. If not possible,

  • open the window
  • put the toilet lid down before flushing
  • clean and disinfect surfaces and objects the person you’re caring for has touched after each use, like:
    • toilets
    • sink faucets
    • door handles

Interact with the person you’re caring for outside when possible, in a private backyard or on a balcony. Continue to wear your mask and keep as far away from one another as possible.

Take precautions with pets.

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.

Avoid sharing items

As much as possible, avoid sharing personal items with the person you’re caring for, including:

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

You may be caring for a child who has or may have been exposed to COVID-19. If so, prevent them from sharing objects with other children in the household, like:

  • toys
  • bottles
  • blankets
  • soothers

The virus that causes COVID-19 has not been found in breastmilk. Given the health benefits to your child, we recommend that breastfeeding people continue breastfeeding.

Wearing medical and non-medical masks

All household members should follow guidance on wearing medical and non-medical masks while in quarantine or isolation.

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Cleaning and disinfecting

We don’t know exactly how long the COVID-19 virus lives on different surfaces. Evidence suggests it can live on objects and surfaces from a few hours to days, depending on the type of surface.

It’s uncertain to what extent contaminated surfaces play a role in the spread of COVID-19. A precautious approach is recommended when there’s an ill person in the home. Frequently clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces and objects in your home, including:

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

Frequently disinfect high-touch electronic devices with 70% alcohol, such as alcohol prep wipes. You may also use cleaning products made for electronics (if they can withstand the use of liquids). This includes:

Use separate no-touch plastic-lined containers for:

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

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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 the person you're caring for 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 after your last exposure to someone who has COVID-19, including 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-19. Follow the instructions from your local public health authority.

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