What to do with mild symptoms of COVID-19 at home

You’re feeling ill. And now the test has come back positive: You have COVID-19.

It’s an increasingly common occurrence worldwide. Right now, there are no drugs that have been clinically proven to lessen the severity of COVID-19 or speed up recovery.

However, most people who get sick from the novel coronavirus will have mild symptoms and can recover at home.

“Self-management at home for mild symptoms would be similar to other colds or the flu: rest, stay well hydrated, isolate away from other family members,” said Abraar Karan, a physician at Harvard Medical School. This last bit of advice, self-isolation, is more important with COVID-19 than the flu or a cold.

He said patients could also use over-the-counter medications like Tylenol to manage the fever that often accompanies COVID-19. As for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, “there had been some debate about if NSAIDs worsen COVID-19 presentation,” he said. “We don’t know.”

Those sick at home with COVID-19 should sleep alone, be the only person in the home to use a bathroom, if possible, and not leave the house, said Rishi Desai, the chief medical officer at Osmosis and a doctor battling COVID-19’s spread. Also “take fluids with a bit of sugar and salt (rather than just pure water),” Desai said. “It actually helps your body absorb the water.”

Patients should keep a close eye on any symptoms that become more severe. “If symptoms come to include shortness of breath, severe weakness, or, even worse, signs of low oxygen like blueness around the lips, then seeking care in an emergency department is very important,” said Michael Grosso, the medical director at Huntington Hospital.

In addition to staying quarantined and disinfecting surfaces daily, those sick with COVID-19 should also tell anyone they’ve come into contact with that they’ve contracted the novel coronavirus.

“Think hard about anyone you’ve been around when you’ve had symptoms, as well as in the two weeks before you developed symptoms, and let them know that you have COVID-19,” Desai said. “Those folks should be aware that they may have gotten exposed to you so that they can self-monitor their symptoms as well. This is called contact tracing. And given how stretched the public-health department is right now, it’s up to each of us to do our part to help out in that way.”

For more information on what to do if you’re sick with COVID-19, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.

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