Protection from COVID-19 Starts at Home

There are actions patients with cancer can take to control the spread of germs within their home but keeping them out of the home is the first and best precaution.

Amelia A. Langston, MD, Director, Winship Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program, says patients who are currently receiving cancer treatments or are post-treatment need to take extra measures to self-isolate as much as possible during the coronavirus pandemic, and that may mean having family members stay away.

Social Distancing at Home

Winship staff have kicked into high gear to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in our health care facilities. While we can make sure these environments are safe, we can't control the environments and people that our patients encounter everywhere else. Our first advice to patients with cancer is to practice social distancing to an extreme degree.

You are already well-versed in avoiding situations that could expose you to infection, but the COVID-19 pandemic raises the risk of infection to a level that's difficult to anticipate and avoid. As a patient with cancer, you are much more vulnerable to developing serious disease from the infection.

The dilemma is how to isolate yourself when you must live with other family members or caregivers There are many instances of people spreading the coronavirus without knowing that they're carrying it, so even if the people you live with are taking precautions, it's possible they are unknowingly bringing the coronavirus back into your home whenever they go out and come back.

First, you and your family should be following all the basic prevention tips recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); but there are more steps you can take to protect yourself.

  • Eliminate or minimize trips out of the home for anyone in the household.
  • If possible, keep separate bedroom and bathroom areas from each other.
  • Don't share household items, like dishes, towels and pillows.
  • Do not eat or drink in the same room.
  • Avoid sitting in the same room with the other person or persons.
  • Everyone should wear face masks.
  • Disinfect common areas in your home (see tips below).

And the same approach should be taken for anyone who's at higher risk – not just cancer patients.

Disinfecting your home

Another precaution you can take is disinfecting objects and areas at home that are frequently touched by you and others. The CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting "high-touch" surfaces and objects with a solution that is at least 70% alcohol. These include EPA-approved disinfectant cleaners and homemade solutions of 1/3 cup of bleach in one gallon of water. Wear disposable gloves when you clean and dispose of them afterwards.

What high-touch areas should I disinfect regularly?

  • High-touch high tech: cellphones, tablets, touch screens, smart watches and wearables, computer keyboards, screens and mouse, gaming sticks and console, remote controls.
  • Things we have and hold: tabletops, countertops, chair arms, handrails, desks, handles, doorknobs, faucets, toilet and toilet handles, mailbox handle, and drawer pulls.
  • Lighting the way: lamp switch, wall light switch.
  • Cleaning the kitchen: countertops, refrigerator/freezer handles, oven and microwave handles and touchpads, dishwasher lock and touchpad, stove top, cabinet pulls/handles.
  • Inspect your spectacles: eyeglasses and sunglasses.
  • On the move: keys/key fobs, car steering wheels, stick shift and turn signal lever, touchscreens.
  • Paying forward: purses, wallets and backpacks.
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