Self Isolation, are you prepared?

Self Isolation, sounds a bit like a voluntary rite of passage, of self-exploration.  Like taking yourself off into the wilderness to find yourself or to test your survival skills.  But no, it’s just a new fancy term for quarantine, a concept first introduced to me on a school trip to the Derbyshire village of Eyam.  The residents of Eyam self isolated during a bubonic plaque outbreak in 1665 for 14 months. Turns out stopping work and staying home with everyone else who lives there for 14 days doesn’t sound so bad after all. An unplanned and extreme staycation of sorts.

But like the rest of the world I find myself contemplating not if, but when.  The inevitability of self isolation dawning on me this week. How many times it’ll be necessary before this pandemic is done.  I’m not worried about catching COVID 19, as a fit and healthy 42 yr old, it doesn’t sound pleasant, but likely to be survivable.  I refuse to spend energy worrying about the actions of others and accept that they are out of my control beyond educating my patients, my staff and my family.  One of the constructive things I can do along side all the hand washing is plan for my 14 days of self isolation.

So, what might that plan look like? 14 days groceries? Probably not, if there was 2 weeks of food in the house we’d just eat it faster.  However, making sure the cupboards aren’t bare, that there’s a good amount of non perishable food in the house is a good idea. The likelihood is that charitable neighbours or Uber Eats will be able to resupply you from your doorstep. Even the village of Eyam way back in the 17th Century had traders dropping things off at the village limits, crudely sterilising the coins they left as payment in vinegar.

What about hand sanitiser and toilet paper I hear you cry? Well turns out good old soap and water are just as effective against COVID19 and it’s really unlikely to give you the shits.  Maybe have an extra packet of toilet paper at home but unless this pandemic just revealed an unseen international epidemic of serious bowel issues within the population, lets not go nuts.  Also pretty sure someone could drop rescue packages of bog roll on your door step just as easily as food.

I have to mention masks, masks are of use to those infected or potentially infected and healthcare workers, no one else needs to worry themselves about medical masks.  As you’ll have seen all over every source of media, just wash your hands! Stay home if you’re sick, try and stay 2m away from each other where you can and level up your coughing and sneezing etiquette. If you’re unsure what that means just ask any primary school child to show you, they’ll have you coughing like a pro in no time.

Other supplies you might want to stock up on are things to do, books to read, movies to watch, home fitness equipment, stuff to occupy or indeed separate your kids.

I learnt pretty quickly after the 2011 earthquakes that routine is key, unplanned disruption to your routine is really upsetting.  That doesn’t mean you can’t plan a routine for being home, from getting up and meal times to activities, phone calls, Skype calls.  Can you work from home? Can you be smarter about tasks that you would usually leave the house for? Me, I can’t dentist from home, so what other projects could I get underway, are there activities we could do as a family are there things I can plan to occupy the kids whilst I do my stuff or try and carve out some me time whilst we all live in each others pockets.  Think 14 days of rainy day activities.

All of the above assumes you’ve been self isolated as a precaution, have you planned for getting sick?  I have a bit of a home pharmacy and trauma aid station going on at home, as I think anyone in the medical world does.  My essential recommendations would be paracetamol ( tablets and/ or suspension), electrolyte powder or drinks, betadine throat gargle or salt ( for salt water rinsing), menthol or albas oil for steam inhalation, two weeks supply of your regular medications, extra soap, extra laundry powder, bleach surface spray. Soup, powered or cooked up in batches and frozen.

So, here in the Southern Hemisphere Winter is coming, a winter we’ve not seen before.  We will be ‘snowed in’, maybe more than once.  Have a plan, have a chat with those you’ll be in isolation with, it’ll be easier if you’ve thought it out before you have to. If you’re lucky enough to be well, remember you’re helping those who might not manage being sick at all and helping prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed with the sick.

Good luck and don’t forget, in the words of Lance Corporal Jones

‘there’s no need to panic Mr Manwaring’. 

This too will pass.