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Public-health officials are urging Canadians who develop symptoms of COVID-19 to isolate themselves at home quickly and call their health provider or local public health authority. But as they face lengthy waiting times to speak with health workers by phone, those feeling ill may be wondering what to do in the meantime.

Should you head to your nearest testing clinic? What can you do about your symptoms? Here’s a guide.

Here’s how to self-isolate

On March 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told any Canadians abroad “it is time for you to come home.”

Who needs to self-isolate:

What is self-isolation:

Self-isolation requires you to stay at home, monitor for symptoms, and avoid contact with other people for 14 days, according to the Government of Canada website.

Expectations for those in self-isolation:

  • Stay home from work and school; avoid public transit;
  • Have supplies such as groceries dropped off at your door;
  • Keep a two-metre distance from other people;
  • Stay clear of elderly people and anyone with compromised immune systems or chronic conditions.

And some tips to maintain your health and wellness:

Additional Globe resources:

Need more answers? Email audience@globeandmail.com

Do a self-assessment

Some provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, have online self-assessments to help you determine your next steps. (B.C’s and Alberta’s online assessment tools are especially easy to use, and you don’t need to live in these provinces to access them.) Depending on your answers to a series of questions, these assessments can tell you whether you require emergency medical care (this is only if you experience any of the following: severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, a very difficult time waking up, confusion, loss of consciousness). They can also tell you whether to call 811 (or 1-866-797-0000 in Ontario, 1-888-315-9257 in Manitoba, 867-975-5771 in Nunavut) and wait until someone is available to answer, or whether you need to be tested at all.

Do you actually need to be tested?

Do not visit a COVID-19 assessment centre unless you have symptoms, Public Health Ontario says. Some health experts also recommend that you don’t go for testing until you’ve consulted your doctor or local health authority by phone. This helps keep these centres from becoming overwhelmed, and also prevents you from needlessly coming into contact with potentially infectious individuals.

In recent days, some provinces have said they are limiting who gets tested to ensure they have a sufficient supply of test kits. According to Vancouver Coastal Health, you only need to be tested if you have respiratory symptoms and are either in hospital, or likely to be admitted to hospital, a health-care worker, a resident of a long-term care home, or are connected to a cluster or outbreak of infections.

Anyone with no symptoms, or with mild symptoms, including anyone who has recently travelled, does not need to be tested, Vancouver Coastal Health says.

If in doubt, do an online assessment and call 811 if needed, and be prepared to wait. If you have any symptoms or if you’ve travelled outside of Canada, isolate yourself.

How to isolate yourself

Stay home, don’t use public transit, taxis or ride-hailing services, and avoid contact with others, Public Health Ontario says. Stay in a separate room away from others in your home, and use a separate bathroom, if possible, it advises.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends having supplies delivered to your home, and to either arrange to have deliveries left at your front door or receive them, keeping a two-metre distance from the delivery person. If you absolutely must leave home, such as for a medical appointment, wear a mask or cover your nose and mouth with tissues, and stay two metres away from others.

It also recommends cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that are frequently touched at least once a day, using household disinfectants or diluted bleach (one part bleach, nine parts water). And avoid sharing personal items, including digital devices.

Whether you need to self-isolate or not, public-health officials are encouraging everyone to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently, and cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze with your elbow or tissue.

HOW TO ISOLATE AT HOME WHEN YOU HAVE COVID-19

Isolation means staying at home when you are sick with COVID-19 and avoiding contact with other people to help prevent the spread of disease to others in your home and your community. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, it is expected that you take the following measures.

AVOID CONTAMINATING COMMON

ITEMS AND SURFACES

At least once daily, clean and disinfect surfaces that you touch often, like toilets, bedside tables, doorknobs, phones and television remotes. Do not share personal items with others, such as toothbrushes, towels, bed linen, utensils or electronic devices.

CARE FOR YOURSELF

Monitor your symptoms as directed by your health-care provider or Public Health Authority. If your symptoms get worse, immediately contact your health-care provider or Public Health Authority and follow their instructions.

LIMIT CONTACT WITH OTHERS

Do not leave home unless absolutely necessary, such as to seek medical care. Do not go to school, work, other public areas or use public transportation (e.g. buses, taxis). Arrange to have groceries and supplies dropped off at your door to minimize contact.

KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and dry with disposable paper towels or dry reusable towel, replacing it when it becomes wet.

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

HOW TO ISOLATE AT HOME WHEN YOU HAVE COVID-19

Isolation means staying at home when you are sick with COVID-19 and avoiding contact with other people to help prevent the spread of disease to others in your home and your community. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, it is expected that you take the following measures.

AVOID CONTAMINATING COMMON

ITEMS AND SURFACES

At least once daily, clean and disinfect surfaces that you touch often, like toilets, bedside tables, doorknobs, phones and television remotes. Do not share personal items with others, such as toothbrushes, towels, bed linen, utensils or electronic devices.

CARE FOR YOURSELF

Monitor your symptoms as directed by your health-care provider or Public Health Authority. If your symptoms get worse, immediately contact your health-care provider or Public Health Authority and follow their instructions.

LIMIT CONTACT WITH OTHERS

Do not leave home unless absolutely necessary, such as to seek medical care. Do not go to school, work, other public areas or use public transportation (e.g. buses, taxis). Arrange to have groceries and supplies dropped off at your door to minimize contact.

KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and dry with disposable paper towels or dry reusable towel, replacing it when it becomes wet.

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

HOW TO ISOLATE AT HOME WHEN YOU HAVE COVID-19

Isolation means staying at home when you are sick with COVID-19 and avoiding contact with other people to help prevent the spread of disease to others in your home and your community. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, it is expected that you take the following measures.

AVOID CONTAMINATING COMMON

ITEMS AND SURFACES

LIMIT CONTACT WITH OTHERS

At least once daily, clean and disinfect surfaces that you touch often, like toilets, bedside tables, doorknobs, phones and television remotes. Do not share personal items with others, such as toothbrushes, towels, bed linen, utensils or electronic devices.

Do not leave home unless absolutely necessary, such as to seek medical care. Do not go to school, work, other public areas or use public transportation (e.g. buses, taxis). Arrange to have groceries and supplies dropped off at your door to minimize contact.

CARE FOR YOURSELF

KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and dry with disposable paper towels or dry reusable towel, replacing it when it becomes wet.

Monitor your symptoms as directed by your health-care provider or Public Health Authority. If your symptoms get worse, immediately contact your health-care provider or Public Health Authority and follow their instructions.

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

What should you do for non-COVID-19-related medical issues?

Hospitals across the country are cancelling elective surgeries, and many doctors and other health professionals are providing services remotely.

Check with your hospital’s or clinic’s website for updates. For example, Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto has a list of cancelled services online, and instructions for patients and visitors to the hospital.

Get plenty of rest

There is no specific treatment for COVID-19, and public-health authorities warn there are no vaccines or natural health products that are authorized to treat or protect you against infection. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, and thus, they are not used to treat the new coronavirus.

Fever can be treated with medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), but you should not treat fever with ASA-based painkillers such as Aspirin, especially in children. The French Health Minister (who is also a doctor) has said that NSAIDs can worsen symptoms but, according to pharmacologist Dr. David Juurlink that claim “is not based on very much.”

Most people who get sick will recover on their own. Drink plenty of fluids, get lots of rest, and use a humidifier or take a hot shower to ease a cough or soothe a sore throat, public-health officials advise. If your symptoms get worse, get back on the phone and call your doctor or local public- health authority.

With a report from André Picard

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