By now, we’re all aware that the coronavirus has no cure, and medications to treat COVID-19 remain a work in progress—but these home remedies mean you don’t have to just suffer through the symptoms if you do catch the virus.
You should treat COVID-19 as you would the flu or the common cold: Rest, drink plenty of fluids, and ease the symptoms with over-the-counter medications.
As always, see a doctor if your symptoms become severe, especially if you experience difficulty breathing or a high fever, for example. The list of symptoms has grown from three (cough, fever, and shortness of breath) to a whopping 11:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention most recently added sinus congestion, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
Luckily, many of us will suffer only minor symptoms, especially if we’re vaccinated, so we can simply ride out a bout with the coronavirus at home. We’ll just need to cope with the discomfort while our immune system does its job.
Here’s some advice from Jon Albrecht, RPh, MHA, BCNSP, FASHP, Vice President of Pharmacy Services, Methodist Health System:
Staying hydrated is important to lowering a fever.
“The more fluid intake the better,” Albrecht says. “Mom’s (or Dad’s) chicken soup provides good hydration and some electrolytes.”
Acetaminophen is the only fever reducer he recommends for treating COVID-19, not Ibuprofen or Naproxen.
He urges anyone with liver disease to consult a doctor before taking Acetaminophen.
A dry cough can be one of COVID-19’s tell-tale signs, and hydration should help with that. So, too, can cough drops and some over-the-counter medications.
“If there is congestion in your chest, Guaifenesin tablets might help loosen the congestion,” Albrecht says.
If the cough is keeping you awake, he suggests a cough suppressant like Dextromethorphan.
The nasal drainage typically associated with sore throats isn’t common among COVID-19 patients.
But if that persistent cough causes a sore throat, home remedies can be effective.
“One of the best sore throat treatments is gargling with warm salt water,” Albrecht says. “A popsicle can also ease your symptoms.”
Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Gastrointestinal issues aren’t a sure sign of COVID-19 — but you shouldn’t just shrug these symptoms off either.
Studies in China, where the pandemic began, show a third of people with a mild infection suffered from diarrhea that lasted about five days. In comparison, a routine stomach bug or food poisoning tends to last 48 hours.
The best way to treat these problems is by replacing the liquid you’re losing by drinking plenty of fluids, maybe even an oral rehydration solution from the drugstore. You should also stick to bland foods to give your digestive system a break.
And of course, stay home and be sure to wash your hands often. Consider designating a “sick” bathroom and bedroom.
What won’t work
Antibiotics are no good against a virus. They’re used to treat bacterial infections and should only be used as directed by a doctor.
Clinical trials have shown MoAbs to reduce hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 by 70% in high-risk patients. For those who have been exposed to the virus but have yet to test positive (for example the spouse of an elderly COVID-19 patient), that efficacy rate climbs to 80%.
Those are eye-opening numbers, to be sure, but monoclonal antibodies aren’t for just anyone with a COVID-19 infection.
Monoclonal antibodies are meant for patients 12 and older at high risk for severe COVID-19. Call your doctor if you’ve tested positive (or believe you’ve been exposed) and believe you meet the criteria.
One such experimental medication, the anti-Ebola drug Remdesivir, has been shown to reduce the recovery time and severity of COVID-19.
In a medical trial that includes patients hospitalized at Methodist Dallas, two-thirds of those who received Remdesivir had good results — and sometimes striking improvement.
“We have seen some extremely encouraging results where people on the verge of death were able to recover and leave the hospital,” says Parvez Mantry, MD, AGAF, FAASLD, CPE, executive medical director of the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute.
Although Remdesivir has yet to be fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), hospitals across the country have been given the green light to use it in emergencies.
VERDICT’S STILL OUT
There are a host of drugs used to treat other illnesses, such as Malaria, Ebola, and HIV, that are currently being tested to help fight the virus.
Another medication, the anti-malaria drug Chloroquine, made headlines in March 2020 when then-President Donald Trump called it a “game changer” and later said he was taking it himself.
The following June, however, the Food and Drug Administration revoked its emergency use authorization after a clinical trial found that Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine offered no benefit to patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
Vitamins C and D
There are also reports that large doses of Vitamin C have been administered by doctors in China — where the virus originated — and in hard-hit New York state.
“Vitamin C won’t hurt, but it may help,” Albrecht says. “For every scientific study showing a benefit, there is another study showing no benefit.”
There have also been studies suggesting that a Vitamin D deficiency plays a role in who catches COVID-19 and how severe their infection becomes.
But health experts point out that the most vulnerable populations — the elderly and patients with chronic underlying conditions — tend to also suffer from Vitamin D deficiency.
There could be a connection, but like so many other discoveries about this disease, the verdict is still out.