Omicron can be contagious, even if you take the necessary precautions. If you work with people or have children in your home, Omicron can be a problem.
It’s important to keep COVID-19 from your home, as you never know when someone might become seriously ill. Here’s what you should do if someone in your family does get it.
Four experts were consulted to provide guidance on how to maintain your mental and physical health. They also gave advice on how to keep your community safe.
Yes, it can be stressful, scary, and logistically confusing. So take a deep breath. This is it. We are here.
Step 1: Verify that you have COVID
Dr. Cassandra Pierre is the medical director for public health at Boston Medical Center. She is also a parent to twins aged 4 and 19.
Pierre says that if you have enough antigen tests at home, you should take them as soon as possible. She says that many people use an early negative test to give them false assurance.
Pierre says that “with the omicron variant,” Pierre said, “we’re finding a lot more antigen tests coming back negative within the first 2 days and then positive after a few days.” It’s worth having a few at-home tests available. Some people will test positive within the first two days. Then they will be able to identify their problem (here’s a refresher about the differences between quarantine and isolation).
Pierre says that if you are symptomatic but test negative on the first test, it is a good idea to take another test on Days 3-4. This is when the majority of positive test results come in for this variant.
A woman compares her results from her quick at-home antigen test with the guide included in the kit on January 3, 2021.
What if you don’t have multiple at-home test access? She suggests that you immediately isolate your test and save it for the third or fourth day. You can also find free community testing sites in your local area if you don’t have the funds or access to home tests.
Pierre says that if you are positive for a rapid test, it is not necessary to get a PCR test. Rapid tests are sensitive, especially if you have symptoms.
You may only need a second PCR test if you receive a negative result within the first few days.
Step 2: Let people cancel your plans and let them know
Pierre says that one of the most important things you can do to help your community is to inform everyone about COVID-19. This includes anyone you’ve ever interacted with. Pierre says that even though your family may only have mild symptoms, others in the community may be affected by it. She adds that this is particularly true for those who have not been vaccinated or people with underlying conditions that could lead to severe illness.
Who is the real target audience? Dr. Michael Smith, professor of Pediatrics and interim chief of pediatric infectious disease at Duke University School of Medicine. He says that if you were notified via an at-home test you should also inform your local health department. They will automatically test you if you were at a doctor’s office, pharmacy, or testing facility.
Smith says that you shouldn’t travel unless you need medical attention or to get some fresh air away from others. “Don’t go to the church. Don’t shop.” As long as you don’t interact with anyone, you can go outside.
Vaile Weber, senior director for health care innovation at American Psychological Association, suggests that you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself.
“There is a gut reaction to feeling shame and guilt when you get COVID. This is partly because there has been so much judgment over the past two years about how people behaved during the pandemic. It is hard to not internalize this and think, “What was I doing wrong?” It’s probably nothing.”
Pierre says that you should know your supervisor’s expectations of you regarding your employer. This includes if you have COVID-19 and if you need time to care for a family member. Get the policy on sick leave from your company, as well as any documentation, such as test results.
Wright advises that you communicate your capabilities to your supervisor. Wright says that if you feel extremely stressed it may be necessary to ask for flexibility or do whatever is needed to care for your family or yourself.
Step 3: If you are at high risk of serious illness or have severe symptoms, consider seeking medical attention.
Omicron is a common condition that can be caused by colds or flu-like symptoms. You don’t need to rush to the doctor if you have a runny nose you can treat it at home. Get plenty of fluids and rest. There are situations when you may need to seek medical attention with an omicron.
Smith says that if you or your child are at risk, it is a good idea for you to make contact with the care team to let them know. He says that adults should keep an eye out for children at high risk.
Dr. Leonard says that telehealth can be used by primary care providers to answer questions about tests or quarantine, as well as mild symptoms such as fever and body aches. Matt Leonard, an attending emergency physician at Suburban Hospital Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Dr. Vibin Roy talks to a patient during an internet primary care visit, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Keller, Texas.
When should you go to the emergency department? Leonard suggests looking out for these key signs: “When someone feels they don’t have enough oxygen or severe gastrointestinal distress, where they can no longer keep up with a fluid loss. If you have any mental confusion or a change in mental state, it is a sign that your brain isn’t getting enough oxygen and blood flow.
Smith states that children too young to speak for their own good need to be watched out for signs. Make sure babies are well hydrated and make sure to monitor their breathing. If they have signs of respiratory distress, it means that they aren’t getting enough oxygen.
Leonard states that one of the most important things you should remember when heading to the emergency room is that COVID-19 is not a cure-all.
Leonard says that coronavirus is a very serious illness. Leonard believes that there aren’t many medications that have been shown to be effective in treating it. You can expect treatment for COVID-19 symptoms, which may be life-threatening. He also said that medicines that may be helpful in treating omicron disease are rare and should only be used by the most vulnerable patients.
Step 4: Create a game plan for your household
Pierre says that a COVID plan should be made before any person in your home gets the virus. However, you can make one after you have found out (and hopefully while you feel OK).
First, determine the possibility that you or someone else in your household will be suffering from severe COVID complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that this list includes people over 65 who are immunocompromised or have certain underlying medical conditions. She suggests that you consult your doctor to discuss the possible treatment options.
“Where can you go for therapeutics?” Pierre says it’s better to have a plan than to become ill, sick, and panicked and try to figure out what treatment options are available.
Plan for disruptions in child care. Who will care for your children if someone in the house becomes ill? Pierre says that if your child is at school, you should know how many school days they will have to miss if they get sick, or if they just become positive.
Smith also says that while it is important to keep your housecleaning skills up, such as wiping down surfaces that people touch often, masks and frequent hand-washing are the best defense to ensure household members aren’t ill.
Pierre and Smith both agree that isolating sick relatives is a good idea. However, they admit that this is only possible in certain situations. Pierre says that anyone with limited space will not be able to isolate themselves easily. Smith says that is difficult to get kids to isolate, and it’s not always the best thing for their mental well-being.
Step 5: Have realistic expectations of your children, especially for the little ones.
Consider the children in your household who have COVID-19. Pierre and Smith both agree that it is important to remember that they are children and set appropriate expectations. Smith says that small children won’t isolate themselves in their rooms. However, teenagers might be able to do so.
Pierre, who recently went through her twin 4-year olds with COVID-19, said she was able, when they were asleep, to separate them, but couldn’t keep them apart from one another. All bets were off during the day. They wanted to play and watch together the iPad. They weren’t 3 feet apart. They were not 3 feet apart. I did my best.”
While it is important for all family members to wear COVID masks, it’s not necessary to worry about the masks worn by toddlers and very young children. The mask your child will wear is the best. A surgical mask is a good choice if your child is able to wear it. Smith says it all comes down to the comfort of your child and what you can do for maximum fit.
A child is seen wearing a KN95 safety mask for children in Hastings-on-Hudson (New York), U.S.A, Thursday, January 13, 2022.
Smith advises parents to avoid being too negative when communicating with children. “You don’t want to tell your child, “You’re sick so we’re going to stop talking to you.” For a younger child, that’s not possible. And for teenagers, that’s a bad message.
Wright concurs: “I believe that kids can pick up on our moods pretty easily so I think it is pretty important to self regulate as much as possible,” she states.
Wright suggests that you also model for your children how stress is managed. “Come together to play board games. Let them know that life can be stressful. Here’s how we will manage it.
Wright encourages creativity. If you have children (or anyone else) who are isolated in your home, you can send them funny photos or notes.
Smith said that even with all of the advice, it’s impossible to make a blanket decision about how to deal with children when COVID is present in a house. “Each family must weigh the risk they are willing to take.”
Step 6: Create some coping strategies, and be gentle with yourself
Find what you can do to get through stressful times. Wright says that her favorite things to do are walk and listen to podcasts. Wright advises that you start something that activates one sense to feel more grounded, such as walking or listening to podcasts. However, it is important to have a backup plan in case your primary activity isn’t possible.
Wright advises against trying to do it all alone. It could be in your household. Is your partner offering equal assistance to the situation? Are you able to reach out to your family and friends to help you with food, supplies, etc?
Pierre says that it’s a great time to look online for things like grocery orders and other necessities.
However, professional help is recommended if you feel overwhelmed beyond your capabilities. She adds that telehealth is readily available.
She says that professionals are trained to identify patterns of thinking and behavior that might not be as helpful as they can be. Professionals are able to help you in a one-way way. We can receive support in our family and friendship relationships, but we also have to expect it back. A therapist is focused only on you. That’s what the therapist is there for.
Step 7: Make sure that you are COVID-free, and then get back to your normal life
What is a safe way to return to normal life? If your symptoms improve, the CDC advises that you can go back to normal life, masked, within five days if you have not used fever reducers for at least 24 hours. The agency recommends that you continue wearing a mask for at least five more days. Although many people do not become contagious after five consecutive days, some people may still be susceptible to the disease. Experts recommend that you get a negative rapid test to rule out the possibility of being exposed before you leave your home unmasked.
The CDC recommends that you wait at least 10 business days before discussing your medical situation with your doctor if you are seriously ill with COVID-19 or have been immunocompromised.
Pierre said that Pierre has been able to relax a little bit after her twins had fully recovered from COVID-19. She has to be realistic about the fact that her family feels super-immune.
“I feel like I could take my family to the movies right now. I could have dinner with a friend. When I send my children to school, I feel relaxed. I’m not a flippant mom.
You shouldn’t assume your immunity is perfect. The immune system that people develop from infection gradually deteriorates. She also recommends that everyone continue to follow the recommendations, including wearing a mask and physical distancing, and to take any new illness seriously, even after COVID.
Leonard says that taking precautions means getting vaccinated and boosted if necessary. Leonard asks that everyone “accept the free vaccine that will prevent you from becoming seriously ill, and also prevent you from spreading the disease to others so we can all return to our normal lives faster.”
You can get the vaccine or booster immediately after you have COVID. Pierre and Smith agree that it won’t hurt but you should wait until your symptoms are gone.
Research shows that it may be smarter to wait for symptomatic cases to resolve. This is for about three months. This will allow the cells to mature, which helps produce antibodies to fight future infection.
Melanie Ott, a University of California, San Francisco virologist, said that an infection can have a negative impact on your immune system. She suggested that you think of it as one shot of vaccine. Vaccines are usually spaced so that the immune system can respond more effectively. According to Ali Ellebedy, an immunologist at the Washington University School of Medicine, the more time between shots the immune system will respond to is better.
Ott says that if you have had your first two shots prior to getting COVID, then you “have a very strong immune system.”
This post was written by a medical professional at The Wellness Firm. The Wellness Firm services include workplace flu clinics, wholesale rapid antigen tests, onsite event Covid testing, physical exams for employment, as well as American Heart Association CPR certification classes. Founded by local Firemen, The Wellness Firm has been providing a safer Tampa Bay since 2006.