A joke going around the Twitter-sphere right now is it always takes Australia about two years to catch onto global trends. And it seems with COVID-19 this is true – although every single person in the country was hoping this was a health trend we would never adopt!
For most people living in Australia, 2022 will be the first time anyone in their household or extended family will have caught any strain of COVID-19. For while Australia remained relatively free of the virus in 2020 & 2021, thanks to very strict border measures and multiple state-wide lockdowns, as of December 2021 the Delta and Omicron strains of the virus had well and truly taken hold in the country’s most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria. Omicron has now spread throughout the whole country, breaking records each day with the number of reported infections.
While enjoying those two years close to COVID-free, as the rest of world battled large and devastating outbreaks, it’s was to be expected that the average Australian will have fallen behind the rest of the world’s population in their general knowledge on how to manage a mild to moderate case of COVID-19 virus from home.
So, if you, or someone in your household or family, have contracted COVID-19, or you just want to be prepared for the day you or someone you love does, here are some essentials I would recommend you add to your ‘COVID-19 survival’ pack AND just as importantly some tips on how you can prevent others in your household from catching the virus from each other.
I’ve based this list on what I used to help prevent everyone in my household from testing positive (aside from me that is!). I tested positive to COVID-19 on Christmas Day, but my husband and two young children were spared from catching the virus, despite us living in the same house and being in close contact in the days prior to me knowing I had caught it.
Your Best Bet is the COVID-19 Booster Shot/Full Vaccination
Having my third COVID-19 vaccine shot (AKA booster shot) worked wonders in that it prevented me from getting severe symptoms and perhaps also resulted in me having a lower viral load, therefore making me less contagious to those in my household.
Fortunately, I had my third Pfizer vaccination shot approximately three weeks prior to catching COVID-19. My COVID-19 symptoms were very mild – slight sore throat, persistent yet not unbearable headache and generally feeling lethargic/tired. A couple of days after testing positive on a RAT my sense of taste and smell also vanished completely, which made life very bland.
A close friend I had caught up with three days prior to Christmas Day, also came down with the virus two days after I tested positive, likely catching it from me before I was showing any symptoms or knew I had come into contact with it.
Unfortunately, she hadn’t yet had her third vaccination does/booster shot, simply because she had only had her 2nd vaccine dose four months earlier. Her symptoms were much more severe than mine: a nasty cough, difficulty breathing, feeling like she was going to faint, dizzy spells, nauseous and battling very high temperatures over several days.
This recent article in News-Medical.net explains more on why having a “booster” is so important.
High Quality Masks Are Essential
A P2 mask very likely helped prevent my children and husband from catching COVID-19 from me. Being concerned about the skyrocketing Omicron numbers overseas I had ordered a box of P2 masks from Australian company AMD MED about a week prior to Christmas. I wore an AMD P2 Mask at all times, from when I tested positive until I returned a negative RAT 9 days later, apart from when I was alone in my bedroom (where I kept the door closed, windows open & air purifier on).
Cloth and basic surgical masks allow too much air to escape. Air-quality scientist’s like Professor Lidia Morawska have been calling on government subsidies for properly fitted respirator masks, such as the P2 or N95, while Australia deals with this current outbreak. Here the Sydney Morning Herald compares cloth, surgical & P2/N95 (tight fitting) masks.
Immune Boosters Also Wise
Zinc & Vitamin C helped to boost my immune system. Christmas Day was always going to be a seafood lunch, so I happened to have lots of oysters in the fridge which are one of the best natural sources of zinc. This Health Direct page lists all the best natural sources of zinc.
I also took supplements of high potency Zinc, Vitamin C and an immune booster supplement called Bioceauticals ArmaForce which has andrographis leaf, Vitamin C, Echinacea & Olive Leaf. But please note there have been cases of people temporarily losing their sense of taste from taking andrographis supplements – which is also a common side effect of COVID-19 and it is only suggested you take this supplement for short periods of time.
Oxygen Levels Need to Be Watched
While my order of a pulse oximeter arrived too late for me to test my oxygen levels while sick with the virus, if you have the budget, it may be wise to invest in one for the family medical kit – they can be found at most chemists and various online sites, costing anywhere between $30-75 each.
My friend with the much more severe case of covid was tracking her oxygen levels via a pulse oximeter (she was lucky to find at her local chemist as they had sold out in most chemists around my area) which showed her oxygen levels to be as low at 93%. Normal blood oxygen saturation level is around 95–100%.
She knew if her oxygen saturation levels dropped by 1-2% points below this to 91-2% she would need to call an ambulance or seek urgent medical care, but also if she was able to give the emergency services information about her oxygen levels it may have helped to elevate the status of her call appropriately.
This helpful booklet available on the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners website has easy to follow advice about tracking your oxygen levels using a oximeter, along with other advice on self-managing their COVID-19 symptoms, if mild or moderate, from home
Saline Solution For Throat & Nose
Gargling with salty water is something I’ve often done to help fight off a sore throat. But researching what to do to help fight off Covid as quickly as possible I found a very practical YouTube video of a straight-talking GP Dr Sandhya Ramanathan in New Zealand who also suggested flushing out your nasal passages with either saline solution or saline solution with a few drops of betadine. Here is her video which gives instructions on how to do this as well as how to use an Oximeter properly.
Paracetamol to keep fevers down and throat lozenges may help to make you more comfortable if suffering from high temperature or a sore throat, so make sure you have some in the household medical kit too.
Clean, Clean, Clean
Keep high use areas of your home super clean by wiping down each time you use eg basins, shower, toilet, door handles, light switches – basically anywhere the infected person touches needs to be wiped clean. Vacuum and mop the floors regularly too. Plus the person/s infected with COVID-19 should use a separate bathroom to the others in the household if possible.
For the cleaning surfaces in the home use a good quality household cleaner, diluted bleach solution where the surface allows or medical grade cleaning spray (if you have access to it). Wear disposable gloves to protect your hands. Antibacterial wipes are also good, though only as a short-term solution as obviously these create a lot of waste.
Also wash your bedding. clothes & towels on the highest temperature setting your washing machine has (though check the labels on your clothing to keep within the recommended temperature for their fabric & make). Also use the clothes dryer to dry them if suitable and you have one – the high heat both in the washing machine and dryer will ensure that the virus particles are made inactive. Choice Australia have this great guide to how to do you laundry to kill viruses.
Ventilation is Key
I fell ill in summer, which allowed us to have every window and door in our home open to properly ventilate our home. Obviously, this would not have been practical at other times of the year, but where possible keep as many windows/doors open to allow good cross through of air in your home and use the extraction fans in bathroom/s if you have them. To get some clues on improving ventilation this CDC guide is easy to follow.
Air Purifier in Bedroom / Your Isolation Room
When living in Hong Kong for several years I had invested in an IQ Air Purifier which uses HEPA filters to remove even the smallest particles from the air to protect my young children from pollution. This came in very handy while I had Covid. I turned on the air purifier to clean the air in my room of as much of the virus as possible before I opened the door and air from my room had a chance to move to any other space in the house. I realise this is a luxury, but may be something you want to consider if your budget allows.
Staying Calm and Reaching Out
I’ve always been interested in health and science so had been reading about people’s experience with covid since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. So when I tested positive I knew I was more likely to experience a mild case which helped keep me calm and positive.
I also waiting online (2+ hours) to speak to medical staff at the 24 hour Australian government run Health Direct line: 1800 022 222 . The doctor I spoke with said based on my described symptoms I was in the ‘yellow’ category so should be fine self-managing my illness and didn’t need an at-home care kit. You can also fill in the Health Direct online form here which will help you assess your symptoms and decide if you need to speak to a doctor or seek medical assistance.
Ease Back in Rather Than Expecting To Bounce Back
Once you no longer have any symptoms, have tested negative & are therefore no longer contagious (I got the all-clear via a RAT on day 9) don’t feel you have to rush back into your normal routine. Ease back into exercise, even if you’ve only had a mild case: your body may be more exhausted from fighting the virus than you realise. This New York Times article goes into more detail on this topic of recovery from COVID-19.
Important note: The above advice is only relevant for someone with mild COVID-19 symptoms. If at any point you or the person you are caring for who has COVID-19 experience any of the following please contact emergency services immediately:
- So breathless you’re unable to speak in sentences
- Unconscious, fainting or drowsy
- Skin turning blue or pale
- Cold and clammy or pale and mottled skin
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Passing no urine or a lot less urine than usual