An expert’s guide to treating yourself at home if you catch COVID-19
17.01.2022

An expert’s guide to treating yourself at home if you catch COVID-19

COVID-19 home treatment
Words by Talia Rinaldo

Here’s your guide to preparing for COVID and what to do if you catch it.

It’s 2022 and by now, just about everyone in Australia knows someone who has either contracted or been affected by COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.

Blind-sighting much of the population, the super transmissible strain has been relentless these past few weeks and shows no signs of slowing down, with tens of thousands of new infections being recorded across the country every day.

Stay up to date with what’s happening in and around Melbourne here.

In Victoria alone, there are now more than 245,040 active COVID-19 cases, sending the number of available workers in the healthcare system and other essential industries to dangerous lows. Today the date recorded six deaths and 22,429 cases; 1,229 people in hospital, including 129 in ICUs.

The likelihood of contracting this virus during Australia’s current wave is high with the federal government warning everyone to prepare to catch it in the coming days and weeks. The state had advised that Victoria is soon reaching a ‘peak’ of Omicron cases.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty but I do think we’re reasonably close to peak, if we’re not at a peak already,” Prof Sutton said.

Hospitalisations and ICU admissions are expected to increase over the coming weeks and would reach a peak “sometime in February”, with Professor Sutton particularly urging elderly Victorians to get their booster dose as a result.

“Those hospital numbers are going to increase. There’s a lag compared to our daily case numbers, and over the next few weeks we will see hospital numbers go up,” Professor Sutton said today.

“That third dose is really important because second dose protection does wane over time.”

In case you’re one of the immune superhumans who hasn’t got COVID right now, it’s recommended you start preparing for the impending arrival of the spicy c – and that means more than just wearing a mask and loading up on hand sanitiser. It’s important to be prepared because you won’t be able to go to your supermarket or pharmacy if you are diagnosed with COVID-19.

Here are some tips according to Dr Susie Cartledge, a Senior Research Fellow, Chronic Disease & Ageing at Monash University and a registered nurse with a background in cardiac and emergency specialties.

Continue to try and prevent catching Covid

While it seems like covid is everywhere, it’s still advised to do your best to avoid catching it if you can. Wear a facemask indoors, and outdoors when you can’t physically distance; ensure good and regular hand hygiene, and avoid groups of people if you can or if you are gathering, consider doing so outdoors.

And of course, test for covid. If you’re symptomatic or a close contact, test yourself with a RAT (if you can’t find one) or via a Polymerase Chain Reaction test (PCR). This is particularly important before going into high-risk settings or visiting vulnerable people.

Despite the rise in covid-chasers – someone indulging in the controversial practice of trying to catch the virus on their own terms, perhaps at a “COVID party”, so they can time their isolation around their lives and hopefully avoid inconvenience – epidemiologists and experts are strongly warning against the practice. If you can, avoid it. It’s not worth the risk, especially with the possibility of contracting debilitating “long COVID” or a more severe infection than planned.

Prepare a Covid Home Care Kit

If you happen to return a positive RAT or a positive PCR and have been instructed to isolate at home for seven days, here are a few things you should have on hand that can help you manage your symptoms safely. As someone who caught covid totally unprepared and had to rely on friends and family members to drop goods off (thank you again beautiful humans), a covid kit will save you a lot of trouble.

Simple pain and fever relief

Paracetamol (eg Panadol) and ibuprofen (eg Neurofen) will help reduce any fevers and body aches. Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine can also help in case of sinus pain, while throat lozenges and cough syrup can relieve the Omicron-specific side effects.

Usual medications

Try and ensure you’ve always got a two-week supply of any regular medications. If you find yourself without access to your medications or have run out, speak to your GP or pharmacist about having them delivered.

Food and Beverages

Hydration is essential when it comes to treating covid at home so consider purchasing hydration drinks like Hydrolyte, Powerade, Gatorades etc. as well as icy poles.

It’s possible for you to be isolated for up to two weeks, so make sure you have a variety of non-perishable foods available. This could include tinned foods, nuts, pasta, rice etc and a nice big tub of natural yoghurt with a later expiry date. If you have the capacity to do so, prepare some meals and store them in the freezer for those days when you’re not up to cooking. Think pasta, dumplings, curries, etc.

Phone numbers

Covid affects people differently and symptoms can range from mild to extreme, so it’s wise to have easy access to important phone numbers, including that of your GP, Nurse on call, and support people.

Thermometer

Knowing your temperature is helpful when trying to treat covid at home and if you’re communicating with health care professionals. When your temp exceeds 38 degrees Celsius, you’ll know you’re in need of a paracetamol top-up.

Face Masks, tissues, hand sanitiser 

While you’ll be isolated in your home, it’s handy to have some face masks on hand in case someone comes knocking or if you’re living with others who aren’t (yet) infected. P2/N95 masks are recommended if available. Tissues are also always handy to have year-round, especially if you’ve got Omicron’s runny nose and sneezing.

Hand sanitizer, dish soap and hand soap and other cleaning supplies, such as alcohol wipes for commonly touched surfaces and electronics. There’s no need to stop up for the rest of time, but ensure you have enough toilet paper too.

Pulse Oximeter

This one is just one if you’re feeling like you need to be extra prepared. A pulse oximeter can help you keep track of your blood oxygenation which is useful if you experience worsening symptoms over the length of your isolation. Pulse oximeters can be purchased from the chemist for around $50.

RATs

Although RATs are hard to come by right now, they’re a great addition to your home care kit. If you are still experiencing Covid-19 symptoms on day 12 of isolation, you’ll need a negative PCR or RAT in order to leave home isolation.

Dan Andrews today announced that 3 million free rapid antigen tests have landed in Victoria, and 41 million more are on the way so hopefully that means you might be able to come across one a ~little~ bit easier.

“Thousands have already gone to our hospitals and emergency services to help get more of our most critical workers back to work safely. And over the last week more than 400,000 have been distributed for free at PCR testing sites to those who need them.” See below for info from Geelong MP Christine Couzens.

Word on the street is you can get two free RATs per person from Melbourne Showgrounds Gate 7. It opens up at 7:30am and closes at 7pm. The Find A Rat website which can be a touch slow in updating stock details. Check it out here and may the odds be ever in your favour.

Pet Food

While it sucks that you’re at home isolating, you’re not the only ones. Your beloved pets will be right there with you so it’s important you ensure you’ve got enough pet food and supplies for two weeks.

Things To Do

Seven days in isolation can be tough, especially after the enduring lockdowns over the past few years. This means you might need more activities to keep you occupied because you can only nap for so long. Make sure you’ve got puzzles, colouring books, streaming services, and board games on hand to keep you busy.

Might also be worth loading up on information about isolation requirements. You can find the Australian Government’s test and isolate protocols on their website and more information about when to contact your healthcare provider on the Health Direct website.

So you’ve tested positive. Now what?

  • Stay Home. Unless you need to leave for medical care or you are unsafe, the recommended health advice is to stay in your home.
  • Isolate. At the time of writing, people who test positive for Covid-19 are required to isolate for a minimum of seven days. Household contacts must also isolate. If you can, try and isolate away from others in the home by staying in separate, well-ventilated rooms. Use separate bathrooms if available. If you are using shared spaces, do so separately, wipe down surfaces and wear a mask. Even if you’re not worried about catching COVID, your housemate, partner or family member might, so it’s important to have the conversation about a living plan ahead of time.
  • Contact your social and work contacts to notify them of your result.
  • Report your RAT tested if required to the relevant state authority. Anyone in Victoria who tests positive on a rapid test is considered a “probable” case of COVID-19 and is required to isolate for seven days. There is no need to obtain a PCR test if you have already tested positive on a rapid test, but you do need to report your result and start informing anyone you have come into close contact with. Click here to report a positive RAT in Victoria or call 1800 675 398
  • If you’re over 65 years of age or have a chronic health condition, make contact with your GP or care provider.
  • If you’re under the age of 65 and healthy, follow the action plan (see below).

COVID at home action plan

Thanks to Dr Susie Cartledge, we’ve got a simple guide to managing your symptoms at home. These symptoms may last anywhere between two and 10 days.

While there are still cases of severe illness in some people, experts say the majority of people who have at least two vaccine doses will experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms which can be easily treated at home. 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.

It is very important to monitor the symptoms when you or someone you care for gets COVID-19, particularly if you feel they are getting worse.

Mild Symptoms

Mild symptoms include headache, aches and pains, sore throat, dry cough, runny or blocked nose, feeling more tired than usual (but able to get out of bed and walk around), loss of or change in taste and smell, loss of appetite, nausea and feeling sad, worried and 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.

Management includes rest, drinking plenty of fluids, eating small and regular healthy snacks, and take regular medication.

Moderate Symptoms

Moderate symptoms include shortness of breath/breathlessness, persistent cough and coughing mucous, severe muscle aches and pains, shakes or shivers, vomiting or diarrhoea, little or no urination, and a high temperature (above 38 degrees Celsius).

Management includes the above, plus contacting your GP, if GP is unavailable call the National Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 020 080. Take paracetamol and/or ibuprofen to lower temperate and continue to monitor. Alternatively, you can contact a service like Nurse on Call 1300 606 024 for advice.

Severe Symptoms

Severe symptoms of covid include oxygen levels from oximeter below 92% and breathing rate is more than 30 breaths per minute (these numbers may be dependent on if this is for a child or health history), chest pain, lips or face turning blue, coughing up blood, confusion, fainting, decreased urination, severe headaches or dizziness, fainting or feeling like fainting often, and unable to get out of bed or look after self or others.

If you experience severe symptoms, call an ambulance on 000. Only use the ambulance for severe symptoms or upon the advice of a medical practitioner.

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.

You can read more about managing COVID at home here.

Be aware of long COVID

Most people who test positive for COVID-19 recover completely, but some people may develop long COVID.

Long COVID is where symptoms of COVID-19 remain, or develop, long after the initial infection – usually after 4 weeks. Symptoms of long COVID can last for weeks or sometimes months, and include:

  • extreme fatigue (tiredness)
  • shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration
  • changes to taste and smell
  • joint and muscle pain.

It is not yet known how long symptoms of long COVID will last. In a large survey of people in the United Kingdom who had COVID-19, nearly 10% of people reported at least one symptom 12 weeks after their initial infection.

You can find out more about COVID-19 in Victoria here