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Dr. Christina Tuomi: Tips for getting through Covid at home

Homer Medical Center

Most people who catch COVID-19 will not end up in the hospital, we'll go through it at home, alone or with family. But everyone needs a plan for quarantine, treatment and convalescence. Dr Christina Tuomi, from Homer Medical Center, recently made the time to speak to KBBI's Kathleen Gustafson to offer some tips for treatment when COVID comes to your home.

If you have COVID, reach out to your primary caregiver or call the South Peninsula Hospital COVIDline at (907) 235-0235 to ask about borrowing an oximeter and to keep in contact with local healthcare providers.

Healthcare provider contacts:
Seldovia Village Tribe Health Center
in Homer, (907) n226-2228,
in Seldovia, (907) 226-2228
and in Anchor Point (907) 226-2238

Homer Medical Center, (907) 235-8586

and Kachemak Medical Group, (907) 235-7000.



Right now, and in the coming weeks and months before a vaccine is widely available, people will be going through COVID at home. And so I wanted to get some tips from you about what to do and how to help keep yourself as healthy as possible and on track.

Dr. Tuomi
I would say the very first thing that I think is important to do, when you have the received the diagnosis of COVID-19: So, you get the call saying, you have a positive test. First, isolate.

Make sure that you're reaching out to your close contacts, anybody that might need to quarantine, but then reach out to your primary care provider or the local office that you we're last seen.

If you don't have a PCP, that way you have somebody that is in the medical field that can reach out to you and talk to you. And it's somebody that you can reach out to if something changes and you have questions regarding how you're feeling and your symptoms.
After that, it's important to stay hydrated.

Rest. If you have fever or body aches, take medications over the counter.

What kinds of medications over the counter do you recommend?

Dr. Tuomi
Tylenol and ibuprofen work well for fever and body aches. And you can alternate those.
So if you take a dose of Tylenol, but you notice two to three hours after you've taken that dose,
you're not due for another dose.

But then you can alternate to ibuprofen every three to four hours. You have the option to take either Tylenol or ibuprofen or another NSAID, like Aleve or Neproxin just make sure you're following the recommended dosing on the over-the-counter bottle.

And so if a person has a fever and they're feeling ill, they may have a hard time keeping up with stuff.
Do you recommend a journal for when you've taken your medicines or just tally marks for when you've taken your medicines that day?

Dr. Tuomi
That's a great idea. Or like even just a piece of paper that you can have on, you know, on the coffee table, near you. Mark off ittle hashtags or for Tylenol, you could make a T and write the time you took it. That's a good idea, you know. Time does seem to slip when you're not feeling well.
And it can be difficult to know when you took your last dose.

One suggestion. I've also heard you might take six or seven water bottles that you have.
Fill them up at the beginning of the day and make sure they're all empty by the end of the day.
So that you can remember to stay hydrated.

Dr. Tuomi
I think that that's actually a really nice tip. Fill up what would be your goal is throughout the day to drink. And, drink those other things that are nice to have nearby.
If you like tea, say you have a sore throat. Tea makes your throat feel better, and that also is a good supplement to your water intake throughout the day.

What about an oximeter?

Dr. Tuomi
A pulse oximeter. Sure. Yeah, I do recommend if you have the diagnosis of COVID-19 having a home pulse oximeter. And that's one of those things when you reach out to your provider to ask them about, because oftentimes they can prescribe it.

The hospital does also have oximeters that can be given to patients that have a COVID-19 diagnosis. And so you can call up and speak to the COVID desk and they can help you get one as well.
Everybody who needs one should be able to get one in Homer.

Stay in contact with your caregivers. They can give you a recommendation if it falls below a certain level, then it's time to seek care outside of your home.

Dr. Tuomi
Absolutely, many people, they have that subjective feeling of shortness of breath, or they may not feel horribly short of breath, but by checking on that pulse oximeter, we can see that they actually do have a low oxygen concentration enough that would require treatment or at least further evaluation.

What about activity?
Are you supposed to just sleep this off or do you need to get up and get around every day?

Dr. Tuomi
It's important to be able to get up and walk around as much as possible. If you can get outside, even if it's just, you know, opening the door and getting a breath of fresh air, that's helpful.

But the importance of getting up and moving around, decreasing your chance of getting a blood clot, you know. As we all sit still or inactive, there's an increased chance for us forming a blood clot in our lower extremities than we've seen that with COVID patients.

And so I do recommend if you can set an alarm for every hour or two hours,
just to get up and try to stretch, try to walk around the room you're in or up and down the halls.

I don't want you getting short of breath.
That's also another warning sign to call your provider about if even doing those minimal activities, you're getting short of breath, but it is good for your lungs and good for your heart and good for your limbs to get up and move around. If you can,

Do you advise people to sleep like in an easy chair or on their stomach, or just not flat on their back?

Dr. Tuomi
Yeah. They have noted that people with COVID do much better if they are in what's called the prone position. That is on your stomach. I have seen recommendations that when you are lying down,
if you can, frequently change positions. But being in that prone position is ideal.
That makes it so that you don't have so much pressure on your lungs.

And you're less likely to cause compression on those lungs that make it more difficult to keep the air in them. Lots of pillows makes it more comfortable. That's what I'd recommend.

If you are going through, COVID in a house full of people. Are there any tips for keeping the other people in the house as safe as possible?

Dr. Tuomi
DHSS and CDC actually have some really good handouts on this - how to isolate yourself.

And ideally, if you are in a household with many people, you're able to isolate yourself too,
in a single room or a bedroom and have your own bathroom. I know in a lot of houses, that's not something that you can do.
If you don't have your own bathroom,
then it's important to wipe surfaces that you might share with people very regularly.

And if you're sick, that may not be your job, but maybe that's somebody else's in the household's job
to make sure that every hour or so shared places have a good wipe down.

If you have somebody that's helping to take care of you, it's a good idea that if you are in the room together, that each of you are masked, everybody does really good hand washing and keep that interaction brief and that distance - that six foot distance at a minimum, except for those really brief interactions, if they need to come in and assist you with something.

That minimizes the chance of spreading it within your household.

If someone in your house has it, the safe thing to do is assume that all of you have it.

Dr. Tuomi
Yes. Yes. I think any time that you are listed as a close contact, whether it be an interaction that's happened at work or within your household or with friends, it's best.

If you've been told that you're a close contact, consider yourself as a potential positive until you have clearance to come out of quarantine.
That's the best way for us to really minimize the further spread of COVID.

What if you're someone who is going through this and you are alone, out East or out on the North Fork?

What if you don't have a doctor? Because I know that at the beginning of the pandemic contact tracers were checking in with people every day, but that's no longer possible because of how many people
have COVID now in the state.

Dr. Tuomi
It has definitely become more of a challenge to be able to keep in contact with everybody
that's had a positive test. If you don't have a provider that you're established with,
I would recommend calling any of the clinics.

You can call SVT, you can call Homer Medical. You can call Kachemak Bay, Medical Clinic.
Call any of the clinics and let them know you don't have a primary care provider, but you do
have this positive diagnosis, and you'd like to establish so that they can keep contact with you.

I know many of the clinics are doing telemedicine visits where they can check on you and check on your vital signs, check on how you're doing.

And some of the clinics do have nurses that are reaching out to positive patients, on a daily basis, to check on them, to see how they're doing as a medical community. I think Homer's done a really good job taking care of their patients and we know the distance and sometimes it's difficult to have a face-to-face visit. So we've been able to adapt to that.

Dr., I wonder if there's anything that I'm leaving out that you would like for people to know.

Dr. Tuomi
I just want people to know that we do have a very active medical community in Homer.
And if you have questions, please reach out.
Even if it's not your usual provider, you can always reach out to South Peninsula Hospital
and talk to an ER nurse or talk to someone at the COVID desk.

We can help direct you. If you have questions, if you do feel like you need to be seen, just call before you come and we can be ready and able to help you wherever it is. Whether it be at a clinic or at the hospital, feel free to come and be seen. That's the most important.

Thanks so much for checking in and answering this question fully. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Tuomi
I hope it is useful. And as always, if there's other questions, I'm happy to answer them.


Kathleen Gustafson came to Homer in 1999 and has been involved with KBBI since 2003