COVID @ Home

A collaborative guide to COVID-19 care

Level 1 – Healthy

Don’t Get Infected - And Don’t Infect Others

You might feel fine. But the virus can spread before you show symptoms. Some people can spread it without ever showing symptoms. Some people might have more severe disease after more significant exposures due to increased initial viral load, so it’s worth preventing more exposures even if you think you were already exposed. Overall, follow the instructions from authorities. This includes some of the by-now familiar guidelines for social distancing:

Stay home

Use appropriate hygiene

Take care around food

Take care going outside

Here you will need up-to-date local information. Walks outside may well be illegal where you are (for a time), while much of this advice may actually be mandatory. You may be asked or required to do other things not on this list, like having your temperature taken before buying groceries. Let up-to-date, local information guide you where there are conflicts between that and this text.

Stay Healthy

On top of this, you can do things to stay as healthy as possible:

Psychological well-being

This is going to be rough on all of us at times, and it is going to affect each and every one of us differently. Isolation in general can make every possible sort of mental health problem worse. Furthermore, this is a situation where it’s completely normal to worry about being or getting sick. Having COVID-19 can also be quite psychologically stressful for some. And then there are special stressors that many will experience, such as the psychological toll of the trauma of an outbreak like this on most healthcare workers, particularly emergency department professionals. Here are a few recommendations and tips for psychological well-being in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, taken mainly from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Defense (go figure!), summarized and expanded on briefly below. None of this will be right for everyone, but (hopefully) you know you well enough to find what is right for you:


And on top of that, you can prepare so that you are familiar with the things that you will need to do when disease comes knocking. Read the rest of this guide. It is statistically unlikely anyone in your household will develop life-threatening complications, and hopefully there will be plenty of medical care for everyone. But in these times it doesn’t hurt to be a tiny bit more ready for the worst-case scenario.

Remember, at the same time, that there is no reason to panic. Take a deep breath and continue your regular life as much as possible.

Get the things you need

We made a shopping page that lists handy things that may help you care for yourself and others.

Reach out

If you live alone, now is a good time to think who you can ask to check on you regularly if you become ill. If someone you know and love lives alone, now is a good time to be in touch to see how they are doing.

Existing Medical Conditions

If you or your loved ones have existing medical conditions, now is the time to read up on how these conditions could be made worse by COVID-19 / pneumonia. Reputable sources for health information about a wide variety of conditions include the National Institutes of Health, the NHS, and Mayo Clinic. You / they should also make extra sure that you / they have plenty of all of your / their necessary medications. Make sure you have all the information relevant for treatment (contact info of doctors, recent lab results, how much of which drugs the patient is taking). Assume for a moment that your regular doctor isn’t there and you have to explain it all to a new doctor who has very little time. A recent timeline of visits, results, etc. would be nice. What should you not forget? Write it down now!

What sorts of existing medical conditions are especially likely to make you / your loved ones vulnerable to more severe COVID-19 problems?

Preventive Care

If the news is full of stories of hospitals being overloaded with COVID-19 patients where you are, then ignore the text below and let the doctors and nurses work. Except when local health authorities tell you otherwise, naturally.

If the situation is still somewhat normal where you are, this may be good moment to briefly ask your doctor what (if anything) she/he thinks you should do now, and what you should do if you fall ill. If you have not yet been vaccinated for the seasonal flu, pneumococcal pneumonia, or meningococcal meningitis, now may also be a good time to ask your doctor if you are a candidate for those vaccines. Getting these vaccinations now if your doctor advises it could help prevent another infection from compounding problems that may be caused by COVID-19, should you be infected later.

During pandemics, it is typical for childhood immunizations, maternal healthcare, and healthcare for chronic health conditions to get cancelled or delayed because doctors, nurses, hospitals, and the rest of the healthcare system may be overloaded, and because people may be afraid to go in to doctors’ offices or hospitals for fear (sometimes rational) of being exposed to disease. In case your area is not yet greatly affected by COVID-19: Is there any normal childhood vaccination you want to be sure your child gets while he or she can? Any prenatal care or routine care for a chronic health condition you can get now instead of in a month? What about other conditions that are common ailments for you or your loved ones? Anything you can do to prepare to care for yourselves without normal medical care access in the coming months, in case it becomes harder to get time with doctors and nurses because they are overwhelmed? Do it now.

That said, it is never time to delay needed, urgent medical care. Not even during a pandemic. If you develop symptoms for which you would normally seek urgent medical care, then please find a way to seek that care promptly even if the normal avenues are closed or you are afraid of being exposed to the virus in a healthcare setting. This is especially true if you develop signs of a stroke. Those signs are easy to remember with the acronym FAST: Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time, as in, it’s time to get help. Sudden strokes of a dangerous kind appear to be much more common in otherwise healthy, young adults due to COVID-19, including in people who are only mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic but positive for COVID-19. Prompt stroke care is essential to prevent more permanent damage. This is a case where getting needed care as soon as possible is a form of preventive care, too.

Life, death, dignity, and choices

Let’s be straight: COVID-19 is potentially lethal, and this is even more true if you are middle-aged or older (because there is a strong age gradient in risk of death from it) and / or have existing medical problems (especially ones affecting the lungs, heart, or immune function). We hate to bring up some potentially depressing things right here in Level 1, when you and your loved ones are not even infected with the virus. But, if at all possible, you want to be level-headed and not rushed when you think about these things.

First, remember not to panic. Of all the people who get infected with the virus, many will show no symptoms. The majority of people who do show symptoms will have a mild or moderate version of the disease. The majority of the people who get sick do not need to go to hospital. Even among risk groups such as the elderly and people with multiple existing medical problems, most will survive. That all being said: the sad reality is that some COVID-19 patients will develop severe respiratory problems, and of those, some will die.

Many people have previously thought about how they would like to die when the time comes. We know most people (ourselves included) hate to think about death, but here are a few things that may guide your thinking: