How to keep loved ones safe while you’re sick

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Getting sick is no fun for any of us. We want to get well as quickly as possible.

But one thing we often forget is that our treatment and recovery are about more than just us. Anytime we get sick, other people we encounter – directly or indirectly – face a heightened risk of becoming sick, too.

This is particularly true with a highly contagious disease, such as novel coronavirus (COVID-19). But it’s also the case with the common cold, influenzas and other viral infections.

Lori Grooms, director of Infection Prevention and Control at OSF HealthCare, reminds us that the three most basic measures for safety in the home are the same we use in public – wash your hands, watch your distance and wear a mask.

When you are sick, be proactive in your efforts to recover – and keep other people safe, including your family, friends and coworkers.

Avoid passing infection to others

If you suspect you might have COVID-19, or if you have tested positive for the disease, you pose a substantial health and safety risk to the community and you need to isolate yourself as quickly as you can. You do not want to pass COVID-19 on to anyone else. Remain in home isolation until your health care provider clears you to leave.

Regardless of your illness, follow these steps to avoid passing an infection to others:

  • Isolate yourself. Stay in a separate room. Avoid contact with other people and animals. Use a separate bathroom, if you have the option.
  • Eat in an area separate from where other family members are dining.
  • Take pain and fever medications.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Wear a face mask when you’re around other people.
  • Thoroughly wash and sanitize your hands frequently.
  • If a surface is dirty, wash it first, then sanitize it.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched often, including doorknobs, light switches, counter tops, handles, phones, desktops, keyboards, faucets, sinks and toilets.
  • Clean and disinfect any surface with blood or other bodily fluids on them.
  • Avoid sharing bedding, towels, dishes, glasses, utensils or anything else. Wash items thoroughly after using.

Extra precautions

Routine cleaning measures aren’t enough to help prevent the spread of illness, Grooms said.

Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched often, including doorknobs, light switches, counter tops, handles, phones, desktops, keyboards, faucets, sinks and toilets. Any surface that is dirty should be cleaned first, then sanitized. And be particularly careful about cleaning and disinfecting any surface that has blood or other bodily fluids on it.

Trash and laundry are both areas that collect contaminated items. Use trash can liners so no one has to touch used tissues, and consider wearing disposable gloves when you handle laundry or trash. Don’t shake out the dirty clothes or linens you’re washing. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling trash or laundry. Wash laundry on the warmest setting.

“If the weather allows it, open your windows to increase ventilation in your home,” Grooms said.

Monitor your symptoms

While you’re isolated, you also need to monitor your own health. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may need urgent medical attention.

  • Difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to respond
  • Seizures
  • Not urinating
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Severe weakness or unsteadiness
  • Fever or cough that improve but then return or worsen
  • Worsening of chronic medical condition

Know your care options

If you experience any of these symptoms, please use one of the following options:

  • Visit and use Clare, the free digital assistant in the bottom right corner of the screen who can assist you with the next steps any time of the day or night.
  • If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, call 911.

Last Updated: March 15, 2021

About Author: Kirk Wessler

After being a writer for OSF HealthCare for three years, Kirk Wessler retired in January 2022. A Peoria native and graduate of Bradley University, Kirk's experience included working for newspapers in Missouri, Texas and the Peoria Journal Star.

Kirk and his wife, Mary Frances, have five sons, four daughters-in-law and nine grandchildren. Kirk plans to spend his retirement on the golf course, mastering the guitar and traveling.

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Categories: COVID-19, General