Home care and isolation of mild to moderate cases

Key Points

  • Everyone should be social distancing – staying 2 m/6 feet from others, avoiding close contact, regularly handwashing and minimizing all but essential travel outside the home.
  • Everyone is also meant to be self-monitoring – having a close awareness of any illness and regularly checking for fever
  • Anyone who is ill or tests positive for an active infection (PCR) should be in isolation – see below for details
  • Home care of an ill person in isolation can be done safely – see below for details
  • The World Health Organization recommends that you continue to isolate yourself for 14 days after your symptoms have resolved. Follow the rules for isolation at home during this time. If you get tested contact the UN medical service at osh@un.org for confidential advice and follow up.

If you or someone in your household has mild to moderate respiratory illness or the key findings of coronavirus (fever, cough, malaise, or respiratory symptoms), isolation is required. This means you or they will need to stay at home and have home care. The principles below describe how to isolate and provide home care (or home self-care). Some important points first:

  • These principles apply whether the patient tests positive for COVID-19 or not
  • The same general principles apply if you are the patient, or if you live alone.
  • Seek medical advice if caring at home for those over 65 or anyone with significant medical conditions.
  • If the patient experience shortness of breath or if symptom worsen immediately seek medical care. If this is a medical emergency call 911 and follow advice.

How to manage a home care patient

  • The patient MUST stay home except to get medical care – they must not go to work/school or interact with others outside the home until well (see the criteria in the ‘I’m Sick’ page). This is ‘Isolation’.
  • If possible, they should be in a well-ventilated single room (i.e. with open windows and an open door) and if available, should use a separate bathroom.
  • Limit the patient's movements in the house and minimize shared space.
  • Ensure that shared spaces (e.g. kitchen, bathroom) are well ventilated (keep windows open).
  • Household members should stay in a different room or, if that is not possible, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet / 2 meters from the ill person and follow strict hand hygiene.
  • Limit the number of caregivers – ideally one well person only, and no visitors.
  • Caregivers should wear a surgical mask, disposable gloves and a disposable or washable apron if available. However limiting contact by using all the social distancing principles and regular cleaning/handwashing will significantly lower risks if masks and gowns are not available. Perform hand hygiene for at least 20 seconds with soap and water regularly, and after any type of contact with the patient or their environment.
  • The patient should use a surgical mask if available, otherwise practice strict cough hygiene (covering the cough with your elbow or a tissue, and immediately dispose of tissues into a waste bin and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water)
  • Avoid sharing personal household items. Do not share glasses, cups, dishes, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home.
  • Clean “high-touch” surfaces daily. High-touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom faucets, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Use regular disinfectant/cleaning products and use disposable gloves if available. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after cleaning, even if you used gloves.

Advice for close contacts

Household members, caregivers, and any person who has had close contact with you should strictly monitor their health for symptoms of respiratory illness. They should call their healthcare provider or a telehealth service if they develop symptoms that may be caused by COVID-19 including fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

When to stop isolation

For patients who were ill:

  • At least 10 days have passed since the start of the illness AND
  • At least 72 hours have passed since any symptoms have completely stopped

For patients who never had symptoms (asymptomatic cases):

  • At least 10 days have passed since COVID-19 positive PCR test (nasal swab)

Advice for breastfeeding and infant care

For infants, seek medical advice from their pediatrician on how to continue to breastfeed safely.

As stools may contain high concentrations of virus for weeks, especially in children, after the infection has resolved, take additional care when handling stools and soiled diapers and wash thoroughly your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water afterwards.