What to do if you have to be around individuals at high risk of COVID-19

Mar 20, 2020

Better at Home Report 2021 - Live-in Care Hub

During these worrying times we need to be extra cautious, particularly if you are going to be in contact with those at increased health risks if they are exposed to the virus. Taking measures such as frequent (more than you would normally do) hand washing, keeping hand sanitiser close by, and limiting time in public spaces is advised.

You should also try and limit close personal contact, keeping people at arms length is socially acceptable at present. Though we should also prepare to step up for the elderly and vulnerable.

Individuals with underlying health conditions are at higher risk, they should avoid going into public areas and self isolate if possible. These individuals may experience more intense symptoms, could be hospitalised and become dependent on the help of others to go about their daily lives.

Who is at high risk from COVID-19?

  • Over-65s.
  • People with medical conditions affecting their immune system.
  • People with long-term conditions such as chronic lung disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

How to self-assess

The first step will be to assess yourself by asking the below questions.

You can also do a self-assessment through the NHS here.

Do you have any symptoms of the illness?

  • Fever, coughing, or shortness of breath?

Have you been exposed to anyone carrying the virus? 

  • Even if you are not showing any symptoms you can still pass on the virus to those you are exposed to.

Have you been to any of the following places in the last few weeks? 

  • China
  • Iran
  • South Korea
  • Italy

If you answered yes to any of the above it is recommended for you to go into 14 days of self-isolation and limit your time in public spaces. This is to limit the chances of spreading the virus, even if you are not experiencing any symptoms. If you are in a home with someone who is at high risk it is recommended that if possible to find another place to isolate yourself, or to stick to one room and limit personal contact.

How can we support those at high risk?

  • Disinfect and clean all surfaces in the home as well as doorknobs and light switches
  • Encourage them to avoid busy public places and transportation. If they do have to leave the home, encourage good hand washing or use hand sanitiser when soap and water are not readily available.
  • Know what medications they are taking and if possible get extra.  Keep a supply of everyday medicines, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, antihistamines, and cough medicines in case of illness.
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Offer to pick up any groceries or medications they need
  • If you work in the care industry using proper PPE, such as gloves and aprons
  • Have a plan set out if someone is to get ill, have contacts in place like neighbors, friends, and families that will be able to support them.

You can watch this video for further guidance.

What to do if they get sick

So far there is no vaccine for the virus, so the first step will be to self-isolate. If someone you are caring for gets ill you will have already been exposed to them, so it will be pointless to isolate yourself from them. Though you should consider limiting your own public outings.

The best thing you can do now is to encourage them to drink plenty of fluids and rest. Eating healthy foods and keeping them warm and calm as they fight the virus. Monitor their symptoms and if they begin to have major difficulties breathing or any loss of consciousness then you should contact 999.

If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not improve 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

If you have coronavirus symptoms:

  • do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
  • you do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home
  • testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home