How to care for a sick roommate while staying healthy

  |     |   Helpful Tips, Uncategorized

Though it’s always been a challenge to keep yourself healthy while someone who shares your personal space is sick, now that challenge has taken on greater importance. Fortunately, the basics of care are not only time-honored, they’re relatively easy. Read on learn how to care for your roommate—either now, or in the future! (And wash your hands!)

1. Assume the worst, and plan accordingly

This seems unnecessarily harsh, but particularly in our current highly unsettled environment, you should err on the side of being too cautious when it comes to taking care of your roommate. What if that individual did have a potentially life-threatening disease, one which resulted only in mild symptoms for her, but could hit you harder? It pays to be prepared by stocking up early on all the items you might need to care for a sick person, including disinfectant, gloves, bleach wipes, over the counter flu/cold medicines, Tylenol or other fever-reducing pain reliever, a thermometer, isopropyl alcohol, and enough food/toiletry supplies to hunker down until your roommate is feeling better. Also, figure out a plan to ensure your roommate will have plenty of reading material/access to the internet or TV access in their room, ideally before anyone falls sick.

2. Practice sensible self-care

Though you want to make sure your roommate knows you are present and taking care of them, it’s best to limit your time in close contact. Avoid being face to face (even if you have a medical-grade mask, which are often hard to find), and stay out of their room as much as possible—while they stay inside. You can both deep clean that bedroom once everyone is feeling better! In addition, make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, are eating healthy foods and getting exercise, and are drinking lots of water. If you can get outside and into the sunshine on a regular basis, that’s also a great idea!

3. Keep the rest of the apartment (and yourself!) extremely clean

Speaking of cleaning, use this time to deep clean the rest of the apartment, sanitizing all surfaces and washing your own hands frequently. Avoid touching your face until you’ve thoroughly washed your hands after you deliver anything to your roommate’s room or after doing their laundry or handling their dishes. Washing your hands for at least twenty seconds should become almost a meditative routine for you—do it early and often! If soap and water isn’t available, you can use an alcohol-based hand rub, but soap and hot water is best.

4. Watch their symptoms carefully

Most likely, your roommate will recover after several days or a few weeks of mild to moderate symptoms, but if you’re their primary caregiver, it’s important to watch them to make sure they don’t need more help. This list, provided by the CDC for adult flu sufferers, is a great one to keep handy. Seek medical care if your roommate experiences any of the following:

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

Caring for a roommate when they’re sick is an incredible act of service, and you should be commended for taking it on—while caring for yourself, too. Here’s wishing you and all you know a safe and healthy Spring!

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