For Krisinda Merhi, recovering from the Covid by isolating herself in her bedroom was like “exhausting nothingness”.
“You are tired of doing nothing, because you can’t and don’t have the energy to do it,” she says.
The Sydneysider, 25, contracted Covid after a trip to Melbourne in November. It started with “a slight congestion and a persistent cough.”
After receiving a positive PCR result, Merhi immediately moved to her room, where she remained in isolation for a week. Fortunately, her family of five, isolated inside the home as close contacts, remained negative.
As the daily Covid count exceeds 12,000 in NSW and ‘worst case’ Covid modeling suggests 200,000 cases per day across the country at the end of January, Professor Jayashra Kulkarni says the isolation at l inside the home as a Covid-positive or close contact person becomes “a common experience now”.
Kulkarni is a professor of psychiatry at Monash University and has isolated herself at home as a close contact with an HIV-positive family member. She says “it helps to know that you are not alone”.
“Once a family member tests positive, the immediate response is to be anxious,” she says. But Kulkarni recalls that “human beings are made to face crises”.
Here’s what to do if your test is positive and you need to self-isolate.
Kulkarni says the first consideration should be to “take care of infection control” inside the house.
She recommends isolating the Covid-positive individual in their own area, such as a bedroom. She also urges them to use “their own bathroom, if you can.”
If that is not possible, says Kulkarni, “you have to rethink” how to protect “the space, the air and the things” affected by the Covid-positive person.
“Most people can isolate themselves in a bedroom and negotiate shared bathroom schedules.”
Since the virus is transmitted through aerosols, Kulkarni says that wearing masks inside your home, “as bizarre as it sounds”, is essential protection. She suggests “double masking” with surgical masks if there is no access to medical grade N95 masks.
In common areas, “ventilation with outside air” is important. “So keep the windows open. “
Kulkarni’s shopping list for a week of Covid isolation inside the house includes disposable gloves and surgical masks.
She remembers “feeling really exhausted and not knowing why you are”.
“So take hot showers, drink lots of tea, and get lots of rest. “
Dr Jenny H Martin, practicing physician and clinical pharmacologist at Newcastle University, says “staying well hydrated” is helpful in managing symptoms and discomfort. “People find it hard to drink water, so Hydralyte is helpful. “
Martin, who has also previously isolated herself at home as close contact with a Covid-positive family member, says managing Covid at home “is difficult with medicine.” Similar to supporting someone through a viral illness, she suggests the use of ibuprofen and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Kulkarni says organizing the “pieces” of receiving grocery deliveries, or care packages dropped off by friends, is another consideration. She says to make sure deliveries are “contactless” by having them dropped off in an aisle or on the doorstep.
“Once the person is gone, you can pick them up. “
Watch physical health
Symptoms in a person who is HIV positive “are going to be different for different people,” Kulkarni says.
“For an average healthy person, the symptoms of the Omicron variant seem to present like a cold or the flu,” says Kulkarni, describing sore throat, stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue and fevers.
In a person with underlying and compromising health conditions, however, the symptoms may be more severe.
Martin says that if an HIV-positive person has “gone a day” without keeping fluids, “they may have to go to the hospital and get fluids drip.” People with HIV who are vomiting or have severe fevers that cause hallucinations or cannot be managed at home, “may also need to go to the hospital.”
Kulkarni also suggests close contacts who can share home with an HIV-positive person to ‘keep tabs on transmission’ with rapid antigen testing – ‘for peace of mind’.
Remember mental health
“An isolated person can feel totally cut off,” Kulkarni says. “The cleanliness factor is put forward, and it should be. But taking care of mental health is important.
She says maintaining communication while being isolated is “really critical.”
To feel connected to people while being isolated, Merhi video called with friends and watched movies over the phone with her partner. She also says she was “lucky” to have a balcony.
“It made the self-isolation a lot easier. I could really get some fresh air. It was easier on my sanity.
Martin suggests making a list of friends and family to get in touch with and “work on that list of people every day.”
“Some people do yoga, others do home gyms with milk bottles filled with water,” she says. “Isolation seems to be the hardest thing – just sitting in your room counting the hours.
“So it doesn’t really matter, you just have to commit to something. “
After the contagious period is over, “don’t disturb the bedroom or the bathroom for a day,” says Martin.
“Let him settle. Then wear a mask and gloves, and clean all surfaces with disinfectant.
“Ask the infected person to take care of their own space,” she says. This includes undressing and washing sheets, clothes worn and vacuuming.
She also suggests opening windows and doors on both sides of the house and letting the air flow circulate while household members are outside.
Kulkarni says that in this time of “consideration and change” it is important to “keep abreast” of the health rules in your condition.
“We are in some ways in a happy medium,” she said. “Omicron appears to be a milder disease, especially in people who have been vaccinated. It’s encouraging. “
At the same time, however, people remain “concerned”. “Especially when you see long Covid stories overseas, and the events need to be called off. “
“Essential” to balancing this, she says, is to become “focused and practical” on a positive outcome for Covid and to prepare for isolation.