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 tell-tale signs of the virus, what should you do to feel better?

You can find our latest features and advice on coronavirus and COVID-19 in our coronavirus hub.

Use Patient's coronavirus checker tool if you have any symptoms of fever or a new cough. Until you have used the tool and been advised what action to take, please stay at home and avoid contact with other people.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, include:

If you experience fever or a new continuous cough you should self-isolate immediately. Those experiencing a mild illness don't need to seek medical attention.

However, you should use the Patient coronavirus checker tool again 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.

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.
  • 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.

Medications

There is not currently a cure for COVID-19 or a vaccine against coronavirus. 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.

One in five people who contract COVID-19 will require hospital care. Around 15% of cases experience a severe infection requiring oxygen to help with respiratory symptoms. 5% experience critical infections, requiring ventilation. Those at a higher risk of severe or critical infections include older people and those with underlying health conditions.

Painkillers

For most viral infections, including flu and the common cold, simple painkillers such as paracetamol and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen are widely recommended.

However, in a comment in March, France's health minister, Olivier Véran, claimed that NSAIDs could increase the risk of severe COVID-19 infection and complications. While it investigated the claims, the NHS recommended that people should avoid using NSAIDs if they had symptoms of COVID-19, although they could continue to take them if they were using them for other reasons such as arthritis.

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 non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (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."

Other symptoms

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.

Antibiotics

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 handwashes (unless they're also labelled as antiviral), cleaning products and hand sanitisers also won't be effective in killing the virus on surfaces or your hands for the same reasons.

Traditional remedies

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 coronavirus.

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.

This article was updated on 16th April 2020 following a statement from the Commission on Human Medicines about the use of ibuprofen.

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Hi, I've had Covid19 for 4 weeks and if I had the energy I'd be tearing my hair out.I've had 2 sets of prohylactic antibiotics to safeguard against bacterial infections, my temperature has been up...

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