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Things to Have on Hand if You're Treating COVID-19 at Home

As deadly as COVID-19 has become in the past 18 months with more than 694,000 fatalities, the reality is most people who become infected can quarantine at home to recover. About 93 percent of cases don't require hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even so, some people may see their symptoms worsen over time. That fact alone further emphasizes the importance of monitoring your symptoms at home and having the right equipment and medicine on hand to keep your COVID-19 case in check. This guide will provide you or your loved one with everything you need to know to treat COVID-19 at home.

 

Items to treat COVID at home

Much like the flu, there is no cure for COVID-19. Treatment consists of relieving symptoms associated with the viral infection, ranging from fever and cough to dehydration and sore throat.

Here are some common items to have on hand if you plan to treat COVID-19 at home.

Thermometer: You’ll want a thermometer to check if you have a fever, or if your fever is increasing in severity. A fever is considered a temperature greater than or equal to 100.4 F. In general, there are two types of thermometers: touch and remote. Touch thermometers go in your mouth or under the armpit for a designated amount of time (usually a minute) to register a temperature. A remote thermometer provides a temperature instantly without the need to touch skin.

Blood pressure monitor: Whether you have high blood pressure or not, a blood pressure monitor is good to have on hand. Depending on how the virus attacks your body, it can put you under enough stress that your blood pressure increases or decreases.

Pulse oximeter: This device is an inexpensive way to check the oxygen levels in your blood. Normal readings fall in the 95 to 100 range. Anything from 90 to 94 is considered low. Call your doctor if your reading dips below 90. This means you’re dealing with hypoxemia, or a below-normal level of oxygen in your blood.

Cough medicine: Dextromethorphan can help treat a dry cough, while guaifenesin is best for wetter coughs that produce mucus. 

Antipyretics/analgesics: Antipyretics are medications to treat a fever. Analgesics are medications to relieve pain. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen can treat pain and help reduce a fever.

Cough drops/lozenges: These medicated oral tablets can help treat a cough, while also lubricating and soothing your throat.

Water: The human body is 70 percent water. When fever or sickness occurs, your body loses more water than normal. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, even if you aren’t thirsty. Dehydration will thicken respiratory secretions and make it harder to clear them from your lungs, putting you more at risk for pneumonia. 

Humidifier: Breathing in moist, humid air can help relieve COVID-related symptoms such as a sore throat or a cough. You can also take a hot shower to help loosen your sinuses.

 

Home treatment for COVID

Depending on how COVID-19 affects your immune system, here is an overview of how to treat specific symptoms.

For a fever

Take a pain reliever to reduce your fever. Many doctors recommend acetaminophen, although you can also take ibuprofen or naproxen. Fevers also cause excess sweating, a result of your body attempting to cool down the skin. Stay hydrated (a glass of water every two hours) to replenish any fluids lost from sweating. 

For a cough

Cough medicine is typically the most effective in relieving symptoms. For wet coughs, take an expectorant to help clear mucus from your throat. For dry coughs, take a cough suppressant to block the cough reflex. Cough drops or lozenges can help your throat feel better. Search for cough drops with menthol to help cool the airway passages and soothe the throat. Drink plenty of water to keep your throat moist. A warm beverage, such as tea or soup broth, can soothe your throat and dislodge any remaining mucus.

For sinus problems

Your sinuses may dry out when you have COVID-19, so many of the home remedies involve hydration or moistening the air you breathe. Try to drink a glass of water every two hours and use a humidifier, if you have one, to loosen mucus. For over-the-counter remedies, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can alleviate any pain caused by sinus pressure. A nasal decongestant spray can also help fight against congestion.

For a sore throat

Gargle salt water four to six times a day to help provide temporary relief. To create the solution, dissolve a half-teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. Additionally, drink a glass of water every two hours to stay hydrated and keep your throat moist. Cough drops or lozenges can also help soothe your throat.

For shortness of breath

Contact your doctor if it becomes increasingly difficult to breathe or if you have shortness of breath. In the meantime, try to slow down your breathing by using relaxation or meditation techniques. Sit in a chair instead of lying down to make breathing easier.

 

When should I seek emergency care for COVID-19?

While many cases of COVID-19 will remain mild enough to treat the virus at home, it’s important to monitor symptoms in case they progress to a moderate or severe stage. 

Seek emergency care if you experience these symptoms, according to the CDC:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent chest pain
  • State of confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail bed

 

Can you take ibuprofen with COVID?

Yes. There is currently no evidence that suggests ibuprofen can harm you if you take it to treat COVID symptoms.

In 2020, a study in China hypothesized non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may worsen COVID symptoms, although more research was needed. Then a French health official cautioned patients against using ibuprofen to treat fevers, creating news headlines around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) even went as far to recommend not taking ibuprofen.

However, as time passed, the WHO walked back their stance. The CDC also said there is no evidence that ibuprofen can make COVID symptoms worse, which gave patients the go-ahead to continue using it as directed. 

Unlike acetaminophen, NSAIDs mimic steroids and can treat inflammation without the side effects of steroids. NSAIDs work by blocking COX-1 and COX-2, enzymes that produce a group of lipids called prostaglandins that create inflammation and fever.

 

If you think you have COVID-19, call your primary care doctor and quarantine at home to avoid spreading the infection to others. Monitor your symptoms and seek emergency care if they become severe. You can also read our resource page on what to do if you’re sick.

 

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