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COVID-19: how to treat coronavirus at home
The majority of people who are infected with coronavirus experience a mild or asymptomatic disease which can be treated at home. So if you're experiencing the telltale signs of the virus, what should you do to feel better?
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, include:
If you experience fever, lose your sense of smell or taste or develop a new continuous cough, you should self-isolate immediately. Those experiencing a mild illness don't need to seek medical attention, but you should book a test online. You can use the NHS 111 online tool to check your symptoms and find out what to do.
You should use the NHS 111 tool again or call NHS 111 to find out what to do next if:
- You cannot cope with your symptoms at home.
- Your condition gets worse.
- You still have fever, are feeling generally unwell or have other symptoms after a week.
- You are unable to do everyday tasks such as looking at your phone, reading or getting out of bed.
In an emergency, call 999 or the relevant emergency number for your region. When describing your emergency, make sure to tell the handler that you have COVID-19.
Are you eligible for a free NHS flu vaccination?
You may be entitled to a free NHS flu vaccination from your GP or local pharmacist. Find out if you are eligible today.
Looking after yourself at home
As with other viruses such as colds and flu, taking it easy and looking after yourself are crucial to your recovery. You should:
- Drink plenty of fluids. Drink enough water so that your pee is a pale, clear colour.
- Avoid alcohol as this will make you more dehydrated. There is also evidence that people with COVID-19 infection are prone to liver damage, which can be worsened by drinking alcohol.
- Get plenty of rest. You should isolate yourself at home if you have any symptoms of coronavirus, and avoid any strenuous activity whilst you are unwell.
- Use over-the-counter medicines to treat some of your symptoms.
There is not currently a cure for COVID-19. The aim of treatment is to manage and reduce symptoms until you have recovered.
Most people - around 80% - have an asymptomatic or mild infection which can be treated at home. In this case, you should self-isolate for at least one week until you have recovered.
A proportion of people who contract COVID-19 will require hospital care - the likelihood of this is very low if you are young and otherwise healthy. Those at a higher risk of severe or critical infections include older people and those with underlying health conditions.
In the first wave of the pandemic, concerns were raised about a possible link between taking NSAIDs and developing more severe infection. In fact, this turned out to be completely untrue.
The UK's Commission on Human Medicines drew up an urgent expert working group to look at the evidence. On 14th April, they published guidance stating that: "There is currently insufficient evidence to establish a link between use of ibuprofen, or other NSAIDs, and susceptibility to contracting COVID-19 or the worsening of its symptoms.
Patients can take paracetamol or ibuprofen when self-medicating for symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever and headache, and should follow NHS advice if they have any questions or if symptoms get worse."
Some of the medications and treatments you might use to treat colds and flu will also help with coronavirus symptoms. Cough medicines or cough suppressants can help reduce your cough. Throat lozenges and remedies like honey and lemon may improve a sore throat.
If you have antibiotics lying around at home, do not take them to treat coronavirus. As it is a virus, antibiotics will not improve coronavirus. You should never take antibiotics which haven't been prescribed for a certain condition.
Antibacterial hand washes (unless they're also labelled as antiviral), cleaning products and hand sanitisers also won't necessarily be effective in killing the virus on surfaces or your hands for the same reasons. It's worth noting that hand sanitisers containing at least 60% alcohol (or most with at least 300 parts per million of hypochlorous acid) are effective at killing viruses - these are almost always labelled as antiviral.
There are many natural 'cures' and herbal remedy ideas floating around the internet and in health stores. Currently, we aren't aware of any remedy to cure COVID-19, so don't be fooled by the 'miracle' treatments some people are trying to sell.
When to seek medical attention
If your illness is worsening or your symptoms haven't improved after seven days, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. If it's not an emergency, contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, call 111.
If there is an emergency and you need an ambulance, call 999 and tell the call handler that you have coronavirus.
Even under the new measures announced by the government to prevent people from leaving their homes for non-essential purposes, you are still able to seek medical care of all kinds. You should not see your GP or pharmacist if you think you might have COVID-19.
Any routine medical or dental appointments which you had previously booked should normally be cancelled whilst you are sick and at home. If you are asked to attend whilst isolating or you have concerns, call the practice or hospital first.