As health authorities look to contain the spread of COVID-19, more and more people are being asked to self-quarantine or self-isolate each day. And if you're a parent or caretaker of elderly parents, you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed just at the thought of these measures. While these words may trigger sci-fi images of hazmat suits or cushioned solitary cells, the reality is far less terrifying. Here’s what you need to know if you or someone you know has been told to self-quarantine.

What’s the difference between quarantine and isolation?

According to the CDC, quarantines are meant to restrict the movement of people who may have been exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. These individuals are asymptomatic but have either traveled to an area with an active outbreak of the virus, or have had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19. Self-quarantining allows health officials to closely monitor the development of symptoms, if any, while preventing further transmission of the virus. Those who are asked to self-quarantine will be told to stay home and avoid contact with others for 14 days.

Isolation, meanwhile, refers to separating those who are already sick from the rest of the population. Self-isolation provides individuals the opportunity to recover from the virus without spreading it to others. Patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 should self-isolate until the following:

  • You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use medicine that reduces fevers) AND
  • other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved) AND
  • at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared

The decision to stop home isolation should be left to healthcare providers and local health authorities.

How are these different from social distancing?

Given concerns about the spread of COVID-19, many are choosing to proactively avoid public places even if they are not sick. This is what the CDC defines as “social distancing’ or the act of avoiding locations or situations where close contact with others may occur. Unlike those who have self-quarantined or self-isolated, these individuals have not been exposed to the virus and are simply attempting to reduce risk of infection.

What should I do if I’ve been told to self-quarantine or self-isolate?

While it may be scary being told to self-quarantine or self-isolate, it’s important to keep in mind that the vast majority of people who have contracted COVID-19 thus far have experienced mild symptoms similar to the common cold or flu, and have recovered fully. That being said, the virus can be fatal for those who are considered high-risk. That’s why it’s very important we take the necessary steps to prevent the virus from spreading. Here’s how you can protect yourself and others during your quarantine or isolation:

- Stay home

Limit your out-of-home activity to medical care and do not go into school or work. You should also avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, and taxis. If you need groceries, try using a meal or grocery delivery service where your food can be dropped off right outside your door.

- Separate yourself

The CDC recommends keeping to one room as much as possible if you live with roommates or family members. You should also use a separate bathroom if possible.

- Wear a mask

If you are sick and must go in public or be around other people, it’s important to wear a face mask to prevent spreading the virus. Remember to also put a facemask on before entering the doctor’s office or when traveling to and from your doctor’s appointments. If you don’t have one upon arriving, your provider should provide one for you that you can keep on-hand for transportation home and future use.

- Stay away from pets

Although there have not been any confirmed reports of pets transmitting COVID-19 to humans, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. If you must care for a pet while you are sick, make sure to wear a face mask and wash your hands before and after interacting with your pet.

- Do not share personal items

To avoid spreading germs, do not share dishes, utensils, towels, or other personal items with other people in your household. After using these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.

- Wash your hands

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and if soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

- Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently

Wipe down “high-touch” surfaces like countertops, doorknobs, toilets, phones, and keyboards, using household cleaners and wipes.

- Exercise

Staying active will keep you both mentally and physically healthy during your quarantine. Exercise can help reduce elevated cortisol levels, as well as trigger the release of endorphins, boosting your overall mood and happiness. If you are feeling well enough and don’t have active symptoms, try at an-home workout to avoid physical contact with others. Even walking up a few flights of stairs, or having a dance party in your room can be helpful.

- Stay in contact with friends and family

Research shows that quality time with people you care about can boost your happiness level. If you are self-quarantined, try to still connect with your friends and family through video chat or phone calls.

- Monitor your symptoms

If you find your symptoms worsening, contact your primary care provider or reach out to our 24/7 virtual care team. Please avoid coming to a One Medical office or other healthcare facility unless directed to do so by your healthcare provider. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911.

Even if you are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, it’s important to follow these measures for the full quarantine or isolation period. If you are not sure whether to discontinue your isolation, please contact your healthcare provider.

  1. I will stay in a room with proper ventilation. I will also try to maintain at least 1-meter distance with the person sleeping in different bed.
  2. I will use separate bathroom and toilet. If it is not possible, I’ll clean restroom and bathroom myself after using it.
  3. I will clean my room myself.
  4. I will limit my movement within my house such as kitchen and toilet. At the same time, I will make sure they are well-ventilated.
  5. I won’t go out of house except for emergency, such as hospitals.
  6. I will wash my hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use alcohol based hand sanitizer. I won’t touch my eyes, nose and mouth without cleaning my hands.
  7. I won’t share towel, handkerchief, bed sheet, glass, cup, and other utensils even in my family. I myself clean them with soap and water after every use.
  8. I won’t have any direct physical contact with any person.
  9. I will maintain at least 1 meter distance with other person. I wear mask when there is another person in the room or I am going out.
  10. I will cover my nose and mouth with tissue or handkerchief or arms while sneezing or coughing.
  11. I will dispose tissues, handerchief, mask and other things properly and wash hands with soap and water properly for 20 seconds.
  12. I will strictly follow the instructions issued by the government and concerned agencies.
  13. I will get my temperature tested once in a day and fill the form. I will inform the concerned body with daily health report of 14 days.
  14. If I face any health problems during self-quarantine, I will follow the instruction given by the designated government office.
  15. I won’t go out without having permission from the Ministry of Health and Population. 

(Source:Epidemiology and Disease Control Division under the Department of Health Services)