Medical professionals are urging Australians to be prepared to treat COVID-19 in their homes when the nation begins living with the virus.
As national vaccination rates begin encroaching on the target hurdles set to reopen the economy and the country, the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners believe people need to start becoming aware of how to manage and treat mild forms of COVID-19 in the home, like any other respiratory virus.
Dr Chris Moy from the AMA and NSW RACGP chair Dr Charlotte Hespe outlined some of the measures Australians can take in preparation of catching the disease or treating some who is positive.
Dr Hespe noted normalising the management of the disease was an important step in the country accepting to live with the virus, which for most vaccinated Australians will be like treating any other virus, such as the common cold or the flu.
"We do need to start normalising," Dr Hespe said.
"If you don't have a GP, this is a good opportunity to get one. So you have somebody that you can call pretty quickly who already knows your health background and to be able to help you manage through."
Australians will also be able access rapid antigen tests - some which can produce a result within half an hour - from Monday.
They'll be able to pick them up at pharmacies and supermarkets, with Coles confirming rapid tests would be in stock as early as next week. Rapid antigen tests are administered by the patient themselves, either via a nasal or throat swab.
They're designed to provide an initial layer of protection against the virus, but a positive result will likely necessitate a follow-up PCR test.
Dr Moy and Dr Hespe said households should have adequate supplies of certain everyday medical and personal protective equipment, in anticipation of catching the virus.
Here is what they recommend.
An addition to taking a vaccine, which lowers the morbidity risk of COVID-19, everyday medications for pain and fevers will help relieve some of the disease's effects.
Having an ample supply of paracetamol, ibuprofen or other painkiller medication will help manage the fever, similar to alleviating the discomfort from getting the flu.
Both health professionals also recommend having rehydration solutions such as Hydralyte or Gastrolyte in the house, to ensure fluid levels remained high.
"It's always worth having a pack of the Hydralyte and having a box of paracetamol or ibuprofen, depending upon what your preferences is," Dr Hespe said.
Dr Hespe said diarrhoea was a common symptom for someone infected with COVID-19.
Other medications such as cold and flu medication, decongestants, antihistamines, lozenges and nasal sprays can also assist in alleviating symptoms.
Dr Moy emphasised the need to have an ample supply of existing medications you may be on, while infectious.
"The most important thing is that you have enough supplies of your normal medication, because for somebody who has another condition, it's really important to have good supplies of that so you don't have to go out," he said.
"[The] other alternative is to have access to a doctor who can send you an electronic prescription."
Some pharmacies will deliver medications to households.
Dr Moy noted nasal sprays should be used sparingly and only saline solutions for children.
Dr Hespe said asthmatics should carry on with their usual asthma plan when contracting a virus and continue with their inhaled steroids.
However, she warned people should steer clear of trying to get prescriptions from GPs for asthma steroids as a COVID-19 preventer, as steroids can comprise the body's immune response.
"I know there's another one of those sort of social media things saying [it], and I've had some patients ask me to have a script for steroids in case they get COVID and then they would start them," Dr Hespe said.
"Steroids decrease your immune response, so they may actually complicate things."
Ample water and fresh food was also recommended.
Medical equipment may also help in monitoring daily symptoms when isolating at home.
Access to a digital thermometer is a good idea, so a person can know if they are running a fever and may need more urgent attention.
Dr Hespe flagged a pulse oximeter as another handy device to ensure blood oxygen levels remained stable.
"It's not an unreasonable thing to do," she said.
"It's a very good way of helping with your daily symptom diary to know if things are actually getting worse, which is a really great red flag for us to assist with care."
Personal protective equipment such as surgical masks, alcohol wipes and disinfectants should also be stored in the house, in the case of an infection.
Surgical gloves were also useful, however, Dr Hespe said better hand hygiene and thorough disinfecting would suffice.
The RACGP recommended implementing a symptoms diary to monitor if conditions worsened.
Both medical experts highlighted the need to have communication and ongoing support during the sickness period.
Dr Moy said having established links to medical advice was vital during the period, particularly for people living alone.
"If you've got COVID at home, you still need to be monitored very carefully," Dr Moy said.
"The one thing that's become clear is that individuals with COVID tend to deteriorate extremely quickly. The main message is to make sure that you ... [have] some medical back-up and you are linking in and reporting if you are getting worse."
Medical practitioners are available through TeleHealth for COVID-positive people.
Dr Hespe said the role of a GP would become more important once the country began living with the virus, as a local GP would likely have a larger caring role.
She noted only higher-risk patients and people showing deteriorating symptoms would need to go through the hospital system.
"The vast majority of people are better managed in the community and with the GP having oversight," Dr Hespe said.
"We tend to know [the patients] better and we know ... if they've got risk factors."
Parents with children that have pre-existing underlying health conditions should contact their GP if further measures were needed to be put in place regarding COVID-19.
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