Treating COVID-19 at Home

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people who get COVID-19 won’t have life-threatening symptoms that require treatment at a hospital. Instead, they should isolate at home, rest and take over-the-counter medications to help ease symptoms.

If you’re recovering from COVID-19, monitor your symptoms so you can identify any changes that might make emergency treatment necessary. The CDC recommends you seek emergency care immediately if you—or the person you’re caring for—experiences:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Inability to wake up or stay awake
  • Lips, nail beds or skin that becomes pale or changes to blue or gray
  • Pain or pressure in the chest

In most cases, COVID-19 symptoms are treated at home with these tips.

Symptom: Dehydration

Treatment: It’s easy to get dehydrated when you’re sick, especially if you’re experiencing a fever, nausea or diarrhea. Make sure to sip plenty of water to keep your fluid levels high. Oral hydration solutions (available over the counter at a pharmacy) contain a balance of potassium, salt, sugar and other nutrients that can also help you safely replace the fluids you lose.

Symptom: Cough or Sore Throat

Treatment: Coughs and sore throats can be soothed with lozenges, hot water with lemon, or chamomile or herbal tea. Medications that thin mucus in the throat may also help relieve coughs.

Symptom: Breathing Issues

Treatment: Difficulty breathing is a medical emergency, and you should contact a doctor or go to the emergency room if you’re unable to breathe. If your breathing issues are minor, monitor oxygen saturation in the blood at home with a pulse oximeter, a device that clips onto the finger and measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A rate that drops below 95% indicates that there may not be enough oxygen in the blood. Call your doctor to find out if hospitalization is necessary. Pulse oximeters can be purchased at a pharmacy.

Symptom: Fatigue

Treatment: If you feel overtired and have low energy, the best treatment is rest. Make your bedroom cool, quiet and dark, and try to catch up on sleep. The American Sleep Association suggests elevating the head of your bed with a wedge pillow and adding a humidifier to your room to help ease congestion and coughing.

Symptoms: Muscle Aches, Headache and Fever

Treatment: Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help with fever, muscle aches and body pains. A low-grade fever is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19. If the fever gets above 104 F, it’s time to call a doctor for advice about next steps.

Symptom: Congestion/Runny Nose

Treatment: Over-the-counter decongestants can dry your nose and shrink nasal passages to help ease congestion or a runny nose. If you would rather not take medications, you can help thin and drain mucus by inhaling steam in the bathroom while running the shower. You can help keep congestion at bay by sleeping or resting with your head elevated.

Symptom: Nausea/Vomiting

Treatment: It’s hard to eat when you don’t feel well—especially if your symptoms include nausea or vomiting. To calm your stomach, try following the BRAT diet of eating only bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Bland foods typically won’t irritate your stomach and may help relieve some nausea. You’ll also want to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially if you’ve been vomiting.

If any of your symptoms get progressively worse with a high fever, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, you will need to go to the emergency room.

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