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What is the Difference Between Quarantine and Isolation?

Lately, we have all been hearing several buzzwords related to staying healthy in the face of sickness. Words like social distancing, isolation, and quarantine are tossed around interchangeably on social media. But they are not quite the same and understanding the differences can be helpful, especially when it comes to following the advice of medical professionals. So what is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

Difference Between Isolation and Quarantine

A person will be placed into quarantine if they might have been exposed to a virus. For example, a health worker returning home from an Ebola hot spot in Africa may be asked to quarantine for the length of time it takes to be certain they are not sick. They would limit their contact with others and stay in one place as much as possible so they do not spread their potential disease to anyone else.

When it comes to our current struggle with COVID-19, many medical professionals have advised the public to assume they are infected, even if they are not showing symptoms. By placing ourselves under self-quarantine, and limiting our time outside our houses and around others, we help keep everyone else safe.

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Isolation is used to separate sick people from healthy people. Ideally, you should stay in isolation whenever you have any contagious illness, including the flu or even the common cold. In isolation, you stay in one room of the house and avoid all contact with others.

The challenge with the terms isolation vs. quarantine comes from the fact that many people who quarantine do so alone and end up in isolation unintentionally. This is especially true of the elderly who may already be living alone. Whatever the circumstances that led to the isolation, it is important to remember that being isolated is difficult and can have negative impacts on a person’s mental health.

If you or a loved one find yourself in isolation, there are several things you can do that will have a positive impact on your mental health:

  • Create and stick to a schedule – routines are great for mental health, and a schedule will (hopefully!) keep you from accidentally watching nine episodes in a row of your favorite show on Netflix
  • Stay connected – make phone calls, use FaceTime, even send text messages to friends and loved ones. This is especially important for elderly friends and family members who may be feeling more lonely than usual during this challenging time.
  • Get outside – just sitting outside and enjoying the sunshine can provide a mental boost
  • Eat healthy – plan meals ahead of time if you can. Try to remind yourself you may not be hungry, you may just feel like you need a snack because you are bored.
  • Seek help if you need it – In-home healthcare workers are still here to help, even during a pandemic. If your elderly family members need help that you can’t provide because you are under quarantine, home care services may be the answer.

Quarantine and Isolation are both difficult, but very important to keep us and the people around us safe.

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