On the 10th of August 2020, I panicked as two of my family members tested positive for COVID-19 virus and it was just the beginning of a month full of anxiety attacks and sleepless nights for me.
I live in a family of 20 people with a two and a half years old toddler amongst us. One of the family members ran a temperature of 99.4 on the evening of the 3rd of August. Scared and careful, as we all are, we asked them to isolate in their room as a precautionary measure until we heard from our family physician the next morning.
July-August is the season of viral fever in India, and our first thought was that maybe they are running a viral fever because that’s their health history. Every year during this time, they are down with viral fever. But, we did not want to take any chance since it was a family of 20 people and we couldn’t afford all of us contracting the virus.
The next morning, the 4th of August, we spoke to our family physician, and he prescribed antibiotics to treat viral fever. He advised to keep a watch for the next three days and if the fever doesn’t subside after three days of antibiotics then get them tested for COVID-19 virus while suggesting keeping them in isolation.
After two days, thankfully, their fever subsided, and they were back to normal on the 7th of August. But, as it had to happen, the fever returned on the night on the 8th of August which was a Saturday and late in the evening our physician asked us to get them tested for Covid-19 virus at the earliest. On Monday, the 10th of August, one of the elderly family members drove them and their partner to the testing centres run by the Government in our city. After an hour, I received a call to come to the centre along with one another family member because that couple had tested positive for COVID-19 virus, but thankfully the elderly member was negative. That was some relief but short-lived as they contracted the virus that day and tested positive on the 15th of August.
The remaining 17 members rushed to the centre, all panicking with the thought that the inevitable has finally happened. We had spent the last six months with the utmost care and precautions to keep the deadly virus out of our home, but we failed. After almost one and a half-hour of anxiety and panic, we all were tested negative. That was a huge respite.
We rushed back home, made arrangements for the COVID+ patients to isolate at home. I cleaned up two separate rooms and isolated them individually in each room. The woes had just begun. There were so many instructions, do’s and dont’s coming in from people who had zilch knowledge of the virus. This added to the chaos. And then, the next morning, the elderly family member who drove them to and fro from the testing centre, started showing symptoms. Thus began the circle of endless sleepless nights and anxiety attacks for me.
It has been around ten days since we have defeated the deadly COVID-19 virus successfully. Now, when I look back at those 20-25 days, I realise that the stress, anxiety and panic I went through was due to the misinformation and lack of awareness about the COVID-19 virus. This I had learned after the first five days itself. I was coordinating with 5 doctors that included 3 family physicians, 1 family paediatrician and 1 doctor friend of mine. Well, that’s what you do when you don’t know what you have to do – you run to as many people for advice as you can! Oh and that’s not all, I have been ardently following Dr Faheem Younus on Twitter for his expert opinions. These 6 people were a godsend for me. They guided me through the worst of the times, and I learnt a lot during these last one and a half months which I want to share with you.
The most significant source of help had been Dr Faheem Younus’ informative tweets. He has been debunking COVID-19 myths since March, but I paid attention only when the deadly virus barged into my home. Every time I doubted certain things, telepathically he would know and would tweet out the precise answer to my doubts.
I know I am not a doctor hence unqualified to share or guide people about the COVID-19 virus. But, all I am going to do is share my experience while debunking some myths that created a lot of trouble for my family and me. The information that I am going to share about is collated from the guidelines I received from my doctors and tweets by Dr Faheem Younus, MD - Chief of Infectious Diseases, UM UCH.
Here’s how you can care for COVID+ patients at home:
The first thing to do when a family member tests positive is to isolate them, that’s no rocket science. If the symptoms are mild, and the patient is not showing any signs of difficulty, then it is best to isolate them at home instead of hospitalising them. The healthcare system is crumbling, let’s not burden them more.
If you have the facility of providing a separate room and washroom for the patient, then it is advised to let them isolate at home.
2. Food and Water
Provide them with utensils and bottles that they would keep inside their room. Whatever they touch and use is not supposed to come outside the room. While serving them the meals or water – ask them to keep the plates and bottle outside the room. The patient needs to be wearing a mask while coming out of the room. After that’s done and they have closed the room’s door, the caregiver too has to wear a mask and make sure not to touch the plate and bottle of the infected person while serving food to them. Once you are done serving, move away and ask them to take it. Don’t forget to wash your hands.
3. Washing Utensils and Clothes
Ask them to wash their utensils and clothes inside the room. Provide them with dishwashing and clothes washing supplies. If the room has a balcony that is inaccessible by other family members then they can dry their clothes there, else it is advisable to put the clothes for drying in the room itself.
Now, this is the trickiest part because people are not trusting their doctors and trying to gather information from various sources that don’t have the credibility to advise about medication. Well, nor do I have. Trust your consulting doctor and take their advice. Stick to the medicines prescribed by your doctor. Keep monitoring your SPO2 levels and body temperature. If the body temperature doesn’t come under control or SPO2 levels drop beyond 90, then consult your doctor. Don’t panic if SPO2 reading fluctuates below 90 once. If 2-3 readings throughout the day are below 90, then that can be a concern. This, of course, varies from person to person. This has to be followed for a person who has mild to no symptoms and no other underlying health issues like diabetes, thyroid, obesity etc.
5. Gloves and Mask
The caregiver has to wear a mask every time they are going to serve food or provide for other things that the patient requires. You don’t need to wear gloves until and unless you are touching the stuff used by the COVID+ patient. Washing your hands is all you need.
6. Disposing Of Garbage
Provide the patient with a garbage bag to collect the waste. Ask them to keep it inside their room. Once the isolation ends, ask them to tie up the garbage bag and dispose of in the garbage van themselves. It will be good if the caregiver can avoid touching the garbage, but even if you have to, it’s not an issue. The caregiver can dispose of and wash their hands.
It is a virus. Diet is ineffective here. Continue giving them the regular food they eat. There is no need to add anything extra or unusual in the patient’s diet. However, it would be a good idea to eat healthy food since they are holed up in a room and have very little scope of working out or taking a walk.
COVID-19 MYTHS DEBUNKED
In these last few weeks, I have realised that it’s the infodemic that we need to fight before the pandemic that we are facing. Ironic, isn’t it? There are so many experts out there giving opinions and advice about the virus who don’t even know how a primary virus works. Social media networking websites, especially Whatsapp, has created more harm than good during these last six months. Surprisingly, there are some doctors too who are advising and supporting these myths!
Here are some widespread myths about COVID-19 doing rounds in India:
1. Immunity Boosters
I cannot help but roll my eyes when someone talks about immunity boosters. It is basic science and common sense! You can’t ‘boost’ immunity overnight. Don’t fall for this, please. Taking multivitamins and Vit C supplements are not bad, but they are NOT going to save you from the virus. My family members who tested positive were taking these so called immunity boosters even when I told them they were of no use. Please don’t fall for the herd mentality.
2. Kaadha and Haldi wala Doodh
Again, no, they are NOT going to save you from the virus. Kadha and turmeric milk are good for health, yes, but they are in no way a medicine or a solution to protect you against the virus. Please stop forcing positive patients to consume these things.
3. Lukewarm Water
I wish it were this easy to kill the virus! No, people! Lukewarm water doesn’t kill the virus. It doesn’t even wash it out of your system or prevents it. It is a virus!
4. Avoid Cold Foods and Beverages
Eh... What! How can this prevent the virus? No, you don’t get infected with the virus if you get a sore throat. There’s no scientific study or proof that even mentions this. Please don’t believe things you hear from here and there.
5. Sanitise Everything
I am a person who lives with several OCDs, and this is something that I have been doing even before the pandemic broke. I do it because I have an OCD – a mental disorder. Thankfully, you are saner than me, at least. Sanitising surfaces, doorknobs, phones, chairs etc. are not going to prevent the virus. Wash your hands. Wear your mask. Avoid crowds and maintain 6 feet distance. That is going to prevent the spread of the virus—nothing else.
6. Sanitising Groceries and Vegetables
Washing vegetables the way you used to before the pandemic is enough. You don’t need to sanitise them. Wash them, store and wash your hands.
7. COVID Transmits Through Food
No, it doesn’t! There are no proofs of food transmission as of yet. Wash your hands before eating. That’s all that you need to do.
I went through a lot of anxiety and panic due to the misinformation we have been bombarded with in these past seven months. I thought of writing this blog to help others who are stuck in my situation.
The information in this blog is mostly taken from the valuable information Dr Faheem Younus has been sharing since March on his Twitter account. His tweets had helped me in keeping my sanity when my family was struck with the deadly virus. I hope this information helps you the way it helped me.
I am no medical expert, but some wonderful experts have guided me throughout my ordeal, and this blog is a compilation of what I have learnt from these experts.
If you have any questions or doubts, you can reach out to me personally through my social media accounts. I am always ready to lend an ear and help in whatever way I can.
Until then – wear your mask, wash your hands, avoid crowds and maintain 6 feet distance.
PS: The article has been approved by Dr Faheem Younus.