After two and a half years, we finally had COVID in the house. I’m certainly grateful for science (we’re all fully vaccinated and boosted) because the folks (including me) who were infected had relatively mild cases. And while I knew that at some point we would succumb to COVID, and feel so thankful that it was only a mild inconvenience for those of us who got sick, I was still a little unprepared for the havoc it can wreak on a household (and we are all healthy, young people).
With that in mind, I’m sharing my own learnings from our recent bout with COVID in the house, which I hope help you prepare, or, perhaps feel better if you had the same experience that I did. Keep in mind, I’m a single parent, but I have four older kids (11 to 18), so if you’re partnered, or you have younger kids, not all this may apply.
Also: I am not a doctor or a health expert, so nothing here is medical advice nor should be taken as such. This is my own experience as a mom of four kids.
Before I share my tips, I want to share that our experience was pretty typical of what I had been reading from others with the recent variant. I tested positive about 48 hours after exposure (symptomatic); the other folks tested positive the morning after they were symptomatic (the evening before). Everyone who had it, including me, felt pretty ill right away. For us, it wasn’t just like “oh I have a stuffy nose” or “oh my throat is sore,” but rather, “I feel like crap. UGH!” The worst of it was probably Day 2-4 (or so), with chills and aches (and probably a fever).
This post does contain a few affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission from certain purchases to help support the work we do at no additional cost to you. So, thank you!
To me, this is a no-brainer. Vaccinations protect against serious illness and death, particularly in people with other health complications. I realize there are newer vaccinations coming that might help protect against the newer variants, but I strongly suggest you ensure all your family members who are eligible for the vaccinations and the boosters have them.
Also, it’s flu season. Get your flu shot!
Stock up on essentials now, when you’re not sick
COVID is not like an impending storm; you don’t know when it might hit, so while you can’t pack your fridge with french toast ingredients (ha), you can make sure you’ve got pantry and household essentials: paper products, tissues (LOTS OF THEM), shelf-stable food items that your kids can make themselves (or you can make quickly without much or any prep), Gatorades, waters (LOTS OF FLUIDS!) that sort of thing. And I’d say, the less work the better. If you’re sick (like I was), you do not want to spend much time in your kitchen, if at all. Yes, you can order items like this from Amazon from your bed, but you’ll be glad that you didn’t have to wait a day or two to get these items. Trust me.
Essentials also mean good masks and rapid COVID tests. Funny thing: All the COVID tests I had bought expired (oops), and while they certainly worked (I tested positive the day I had symptoms; my two other family members tested positive the day after), I’d definitely want to make sure my COVID tests were current. And look, they’re not all created equal. I ordered a bunch off Amazon and I could barely see the darn control line. For us, the Abbott COVID tests have been the best (and easiest to use). On/Go COVID tests are a close runner-up (and are much easier to find).
Good masks (aka N95s or KN95s) are a MUST. This variant seems super contagious, and I say this because I was quarantined in my room, save quick trips to get food from my kitchen, and my oldest visited me in my room like 3-4 times, me double-masked and her masked, and she still got it (tested positive a week after I did) so yes. I even had my bedroom window open and an air purifier on with a fan!
Don’t forget meds: People swear by Mucinex (I like the kids mini melts because the adult stuff makes me anxious). I love Advil Cold and Sinus, Tylenol (works the best for the aches, in my opinion), sore throat lozenges (for coughs – me; sore throat – my daughter), and melatonin if you need help sleeping (which I did).
And stock your freezer! This will save you a lot of money if you do get sick because food delivery is expensive. Yikes!
Make a quarantine plan ahead of time
I am very fortunate that my kids are all tweens and teens, and have their own rooms. Two are in the basement and so they don’t even need to come up to where my room is (top floor); and of the two that are on my floor, one was away the entire time. And, they all pretty much have their own bathrooms.
I had thought about what I would do if my kids were sick (basically, they stay in their rooms, only come out to use the bathroom, which they’d wear a mask then Lysol/fan/window open to limit exposures). But, I didn’t really think about me being sick, which definitely complicated matters. Kids would have to get their own food, but then how does a sick kid get food from their sick mom? That’s a lot of cross-exposure happening.
If you have a central “zone,” I’d make that “pass-through” only, with masks, and on shifts, with windows open, fans blowing, and an air purifier on high (if you have one).
Whatever you decide, I strongly suggest you think about this beforehand, and make sure the kids understand what the plan is, at least, your older kids anyway. As a single mom, the kids who didn’t get sick really had to step it up (dishes, dog walking), and if I could do it over, it would have just been letting everyone know that this could happen so they were better prepared.
Cooking was just not an option for me when I was sick, mostly because I didn’t want to expose my other kids by staying in the kitchen longer than a few minutes. But also, I was beat. I strongly suggest downloading DoorDash or another food delivery service so you can easily order food, and honestly, I’d stash some money aside for yourself if you can afford to, just in case because it was a lifesaver for me. I also used Instacart to deliver groceries and drug store supplies. If you know someone who is sick with COVID now, a really helpful gift is an Instacart or DoorDash gift card. Really, truly the best.
I’d also suggest a Teledoc app of some kind, just in case you need it. I have used LiveHealth Online for years now; it’s $59 for a visit, or free if you have insurance that they take. It’s super convenient and I’ve never waited longer than 10-15 minutes to see someone. It’s worth getting that set up now, because it does take a bit to fill out everything. If you’re like me, you’ll use it way after COVID.
Anti-virals? They’re worth a shot.
With my medical anxiety (which often manifests as fear of new medicine), I decided to skip them because I heard stories of people getting sick but honestly, I really wish I hadn’t because I feel like they might have truncated my experience. But for my 18-year-old, I was all on board. Except… I couldn’t find them anywhere. The pediatrician never even got back to me, and the local drug store would not prescribe them (some drugstores will!), so I used an online service to get them.
She ended up taking Lageverio due to meds she was already on that prevented her from taking Paxlovid, and I was able to get them from CallonDoc.
They’re available for everyone over the age of 12, so if you’re able to get them, I think it’s worth a try (my daughter was fine and only suffered mild stomach issues). Will I know if they actually helped her given that kids have been experiencing milder symptoms? Not sure. But she kicked the virus very quickly and had very mild symptoms (and no side effects from the anti-virals), so it seemed like the right choice.
Yes, I was worried about bounceback, but the rates are extremely low.
Think about how you’ll know when you’re ready to come out of quarantine
I’m not going to go through the CDC guidelines here (but do please read them!), but I will say that I was testing positive through Day 11, and still symptomatic through Day 14 due to some pre-existing sinus issues (I ended up on antibiotics for a sinus infection). My daughter was totally asymptomatic by Day 5 (took anti-virals) and testing negative around Day 7. She probably would have been fine to be out and about with a good mask after Day 5; no way in heck I would have been.
We all still masked through Day 10, and I did for much longer after that, even after I was testing negative (my anxious brain plus an impending vacation). We still mask indoors.
All this to say: You need to take this on a case-by-case basis and know that some of you might kick this quickly and be totally fine. Others may take way longer. And there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason because that’s just how viruses work.
Prepare yourself mentally (the best you can)
Admittedly, this was the hardest part for me. I was fine with being sick myself, and honestly, it was a day or two of fevers and chills, then a stuffy nose and a cough, which all-in-all was very mild! But, when my daughter got sick after a week of me having it, I felt like a failure, and spent way too long trying to figure out what I had done wrong, and then paranoid that everyone else was going to get it too.
Thankfully, I have wonderful friends who were super reassuring (it’s a virus! it’s super contagious!), and reminded me that it wasn’t my fault, that I did everything that I could, and that I needed to focus on my health and well-being versus worrying about all the woulda shoulda couldas.
I also felt terrible just sitting around not doing anything but bingewatching, but that was all I really had the energy to do, save the essential work I couldn’t miss. A very loud part of me was like, “you should be working on your next book!” but with the exhaustion and stress of it all, that just wasn’t possible. It’s not a bad idea to have a few books, game apps, or soft fascination projects ready to go to help keep you busy if you get tired. I also relied heavily on Marco Polos with my friends. And I got super caught up on podcasts.
And look: your kitchen will be messy. The dog hair will pile up (ugh). If you have the expectation (like me), that somehow things will just go on per usual and your kids will just magically do all the things you usually do while you’re sick, you will be disappointed and stress out, which is not good for feeling better.
So give yourself some grace, know that you did everything you could, and focus your energy on getting everyone better! Hopefully, my experience will help you prep yourself and your family so you can spend your energy on healing up.