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JAMA Patient Page
August 13, 2020

Caring for Someone With COVID-19

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 2Associate Editor, JAMA
JAMA. Published online August 13, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.15061

Care of individuals with COVID-19 is 2-fold: support the patient and prevent yourself and others from contracting SARS-CoV-2.

What Is Supportive Care?

At this time, there is no cure for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), although some treatments are being used in severe illness. For patients recovering at home, treatment is mainly supportive. For people with mild symptoms, this means staying well rested, drinking plenty of fluids, and monitoring symptoms. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever or chills, cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose or congestion, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. Some people have more severe symptoms that require hospitalization.

What Is Preventive Care?

You can be infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) while taking care of someone with COVID-19. Although there is not yet a vaccine to prevent COVID-19, infection is preventable. The most important steps to prevent spread are wearing a mask, maintaining social distance whenever possible, washing hands often, and cleaning and sanitizing the home.

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Article Information

Published Online: August 13, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.15061

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Sources: Steinman MA, Perry L, Perissinotto CM. Meeting the care needs of older adults isolated at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA Intern Med. 2020;180(6):819-820. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.1661

Wolff JL, Freedman VA, Mulcahy JF. Family caregivers’ experiences with health care workers in the care of older adults with activity limitations. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(1):e1919866. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.19866

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    1 Comment for this article
    Long Distance Care for Someone With Covid-19
    Anthony Smithyman, BSc, PhD Immunology | Biotechnology company executive
    With the worst possible timing my son arrived back in New York (March 16th) just as the full force of the virus hit the city. Within 5 days he had contracted the disease and was locked down in an apartment with a roommate who was also infected. In those early days the NY hospitals were overwhelmed and only patients with severe symptoms were being tested or admitted. Detailed knowledge about the nature and infectivity of the virus and the progression of the disease were in short supply, and alarming stories of bizarre new symptoms were emerging on a daily basis.

    My wife and I found ourselves trying to offer care and support from several thousand miles away. To our great relief, after three weeks and one emergency hospital visit later, all ended well. It helped that I was an immunologist but with this experience still fresh in mind I am writing to commend the authors on these straightforward and very useful guidelines and if I may, add one further suggestion. Namely the purchase and daily use of a finger-pulse oximeter for monitoring oxygen levels. I gather these can be purchased at regular pharmacies for around $30. Of all the symptoms experienced it was shortness of breath that caused the most distress and having one of these monitors provided at least some level of control, not to mention early warning of possible impending hypoxia.