Managing and Preparing for COVID at home

Caring for COVID at home

For most people with COVID-19, recovering at home will the best option for care. 

When you are at home with COVID-19, you may be contacted by healthcare workers from your local public hospital, community health services or a GP through the COVID-19 Positive Care Pathways program. They will want to understand the level of care you might need based on your personal preference and circumstances, and by how well or unwell you feel.

Managing COVID-19 at home when you have mild symptoms ensures hospital beds are kept free for people who are seriously unwell and need urgent medical treatment.

This page contains important guidance for Victorians who have COVID-19 or are caring for someone who has COVID-19. It explains mild, worsening and severe symptoms and tells you how to effectively isolate at home away from others.

Looking after yourself or someone else with COVID-19

As with any illness, even if you’re feeling well or only slightly unwell, it’s important to watch your symptoms and understand when you might need to get help.

‘Wait and see’ can be a dangerous choice – some symptoms are serious and should not be ignored. We know that when severe symptoms occur in COVID-19 patients, their health can deteriorate rapidly.

You risk severe illness requiring hospital admission, intensive care, the use of a machine to assist breathing, or even death if you don’t seek urgent medical help for serious COVID-19 symptoms. See ‘Severe symptoms: get immediate help’ below for more information.C

  • You can safely stay at home if you or the person you are caring for has any of these symptoms:

    • runny or blocked nose
    • sore throat
    • aches and pains
    • dry cough
      • this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
      • if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual 
    • feeling more tired than usual
      • but able to get out of bed, walk around the house and do normal daily activities
    • headache
    • loss of or change in taste and smell
    • loss of appetite or nausea
    • feeling sad, worried, or frightened.

    Someone with mild symptoms should be able to speak in full sentences and move around the house to do normal activities without becoming breathless.

    What do I do?

    Someone with mild symptoms is unlikely to need medical attention. You should monitor these symptoms and:

    • rest
    • drink plenty of water (aim to drink 2 to 2.5 litres a day)
    • eat healthy food
    • take medicines – as discussed with your doctor or pharmacist, or medicines that you usually already take.
  • Contact your GP if you or the person you are caring for develops any of the following symptoms:

    • mild shortness of breath when moving around or coughing
      • but still able to speak in full sentences without becoming out of breath
    • coughing up mucous regularly
    • severe muscle aches and pains
    • feeling very weak and tired
      • but still be able to get out of bed and move around the house
    • little or no urination
      • not urinating as regularly as normal or not needing to urinate at all
    • vomiting or diarrhoea
    • a temperature above 38 degrees Celsius
    • shakes or shivers.

    Or if you feel that:

    • the symptoms are getting worse, something is wrong and you are concerned the ill person is getting much worse
    • you are unable to take care of yourself and others are unable to take care of you (things like showering, putting on clothes, going to the toilet or making food).

    What do I do?

    Call your GP as soon as possible to discuss the worsening symptoms. Your GP will tell you what to do next. Alternatively, you can contact a service like Nurse on Call 1300 606 024 for advice.

  • You should call Triple Zero (000) if any of the following happens to you, or the person you are caring for:

    • severe shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
      • becoming short of breath even when resting and not moving around
      • becoming breathless when talking or finding it hard to finish sentences
    • breathing gets worse very suddenly
    • chest pain or discomfort
    • coughing up blood
    • lips or face turning blue
    • skin cold, clammy, pale or mottled
    • severe headaches or dizziness
    • fainting or feeling like fainting often 
    • unable to get out of bed or look after self or others
    • confusion (for example, can’t recall the day, time or people’s names)
    • finding it difficult to keep eyes open.

    What do I do?

    Call Triple Zero (000) immediately if you, or the person you are looking after, gets any of these symptoms. Do not wait to see if the symptoms change. If you have any of these symptoms and you wait to get help, you could die at home.

    When you call an Ambulance (dial 000), let the operator know you have COVID-19 so the paramedics know how to treat you safely. Ambulance transport to the nearest and most appropriate medical facility is free if you have a Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card.

    Ambulance cover is included under most private health insurance. Find out more about ambulance cover at Membership – Ambulance Victoria.

How to isolate effectively at home

Stay in your room

  • If you have COVID-19 (or you are required to isolate and you have symptoms) you need to isolate separately from the members of your household.
  • Stay in your room as much as possible, away from others. Use a separate bathroom if you have one.
  • Try not to enter shared areas, such as the kitchen or living room, if other people in the house are using it regularly.
  • Try not to have any close contact with others, including touching, kissing and hugging.
    • You can have close contact with others if it’s an emergency and you need help.
    • People who are household contacts who are also isolating in the house can have contact with each other (but not with you) so long as they don’t have symptoms.

Limit numbers in the house

  • Limit the number of people who are staying in the household. Consider alternative places for them to stay if that is safe and possible.
    • Vulnerable people (such as elderly people, immunocompromised people or people with chronic illnesses) are at greater risk and are recommended to stay elsewhere if they are able to.
  • Visitors should not be coming to the house while you and your household contacts are isolating.

Masks, ventilation and hygiene matter

  • Keep the doors and windows open as much as possible to let the fresh air blow through – and if you have ceiling fans, keep them running at low speed.
  • If you need to be in the same room as someone else at home, always wear a face mask and keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres away from other household members.
  • Wash or sanitise your hands for at least 20 seconds after you cough, sneeze, blow your nose or take off gloves and masks.
  • Wipe down surfaces that you use regularly, like doorknobs to your room and bathroom.
  • If people are leaving you meals, tell them to leave it at the door and only collect the meal once they have moved away from the area.
  • You should not share cups, glasses, plates, utensils, towels or bedding with others in your home.

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