As the situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to develop, we understand that there will be growing concern amongst our patients. So we’ve used government resources to compile answers to some of the questions that our patients are frequently asking us. These answers follow the guidance given at the time of writing (20th March 2020).
What is ‘self-isolation’?
We’re frequently hearing the term ‘self isolation’ in relation to the outbreak. This refers to staying at home and limiting contact with others to help control the spread of the virus. Anyone who suspects they have the coronavirus and those who live with them should follow this advice. It’s also recommended for people who are classed as ‘at risk’.
When should I ‘self-isolate’?
For those in the ‘at risk’ category this is only a recommendation at the moment. The NHS advises you should avoid travel unless absolutely necessary and cancel or reschedule any appointment which isn’t essential, including all social engagements.
As per NHS guidelines, you should self isolate to help avoid the risk of spreading the infection:
- If you’re experiencing symptoms, stay at home for at least 7 days
- If anyone you live with is experiencing symptoms, everyone in the house should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person showed symptoms
If you need to self isolate or simply do not feel like leaving the house, you should look at how online services can help.
How is the coronavirus spread?
As this is a new disease, we don’t yet know the exact method of transmission. However, we do know that the risk of infection can be limited with safe hygiene practices.
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water
- When washing your hands, do it for a minimum of 20 seconds
- Wash your hands whenever you get home or arrive at work
- If soap and water isn’t available, use hand sanitiser gel
- When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands)
- Put any used tissues straight in the bin after use and immediately wash your hands
- Avoid contact with people who you know to be unwell
Don’t touch your eyes, mouth or nose, especially if your hands haven’t been cleaned. If you are concerned you may have symptoms, the NHS 111 has set up a free online symptom checker you can use.
The NHS believe that it is highly unlikely to be spread through food and packages.
What are the symptoms of the coronavirus?
- Fever. You should stay at home if you have a high temperature. This means that you feel hot when touched on the chest or back. You don’t need to measure your temperature.
- If you develop a new and continuous cough. This means coughing frequently for an hour, or three or more coughing fits in a 24 hour period. If you frequently have a cough, you may notice it’s worse than normal.
What if I have coronavirus symptoms?
If you have either of the symptoms, you should self-isolate, as above.
- Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
- You do not need to contact NHS 111 to tell them you’re staying at home
- Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home
If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms don’t get better after 7 days, then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.
Can facemasks help to limit the spread of coronavirus?
The UK government doesn’t recommend using facemasks to effectively prevent the spread of infection.
Facemasks have a crucial role to play in a clinical environment (e.g. hospitals) but there’s little evidence to support the idea that they are beneficial outside of such settings.
Can I still socialise or have visitors in my house?
The government is advising that social visitors shouldn’t enter your home. This includes friends and family. However, if you or a family member receive essential care in your home, then the carers should be allowed to visit. Essential care includes things like help with washing, dressing, or preparing meals.
You should contact your regular social visitors to let them know that you are reducing social contacts and that they should not visit you during this time unless they are providing essential care for you.
During this difficult time, it’s important to look after your mental health. Social media and video chat is a great way to speak to someone outside your household, especially if you have an elderly or vulnerable relative who you want to check in on.
Can the coronavirus be spread by pets?
There is currently no evidence to suggest that pets (e.g. cats and dogs) can be infected with the coronavirus.
How do I clean and dispose of waste?
You can use your usual household cleaning products (e.g. detergent and bleach). These will be effective at getting rid of the virus if it’s on any surface. Make sure you clean any surfaces which are touched frequently (e.g. door handles, handrails, remote controls.)
This is particularly relevant for elderly or vulnerable people in your house.
For personal waste (e.g. used tissues) and disposable cleaning cloths, ensure they are safely secured in a rubbish bag, inside another rubbish bag. They should then be put to one side for 72 hours before moving to the external waste bin.
All other household waste can be disposed of as normal. You should wash your laundry in the washing machine as normal. Laundry that has been in contact with a person with symptoms can be washed with other people’s items, although it is advised not to shake dirty laundry, as this may spread the virus in the air.
How should I manage my medical appointments and prescriptions?
If you’re self-isolating, all unnecessary appointments should be cancelled or postponed. You may be able to make some appointments over the phone. If this is the case for you or if you’re just concerned about leaving the house, then there are online services which can help you.
Healthcare is one area where modern technology is being used to help relieve the strain on the NHS in a time of high demand, but also allowing patients to protect themselves and others from unnecessary risk.
If you have an NHS repeat prescription, Pharmacy2U means you can order the medication you need online (or via our app) and we’ll deliver it directly to your door, for free.
There are many healthcare apps available and www.orcha.co.uk has been set up to help regulate the safety and value of these apps to make sure people find the right app, for the right reason.