An online search for advice to treat COVID at home surprisingly yields very few results. Most of the guidance focuses on how to avoid getting the virus and virtually no support on how to treat COVID-19 at home.
A recent social media post shared some treatment advice from a nurse and got us thinking. We can’t verify the information in the original post, but some of the tips shared do not pose any harm and are certainly worth trying if you or a family member has a positive COVID diagnosis, and are seemingly having a mild reaction to the virus.
If your mum/dad or elderly relative has tested positive with the virus, it is especially important to keep in touch with them throughout the day so that you can monitor any changes and encourage them to keep moving and hydrated. There are also some things you can do remotely which will help, such as purchasing vitamins or ordering medication for online delivery.
You can find lots of useful advice on how to support elderly relatives during the lockdown period in our guide to supporting elderly relatives at risk of COVID.
Treating COVID at Home - Top Tips
As we are all too aware, COVID affects the lungs and breathing. Sleeping on your back enables fluid to collect in the lungs, so try to sleep on your side or on your front. During the day sit upright, even in a recliner, to reduce pressure on the lungs.
If breathing is laboured, take deep breaths in through your nose, and out through your mouth, which will help strengthen the lungs and reduce stress hormones. Steam inhalers, vaporisers or spending time in a steamy room such as the shower may help relieve congestion and aid better breathing
Keep the rooms cool as lower temperatures can help with breathlessness caused by COVID. Not so easy at this time of year, so a balance with keeping warm will need to be struck.
Try and move around for a minimum of 15 minutes every couple of hours, no matter how tired or weak you feel. Make sure you try and stretch out your arms frequently to open up your lungs.
The NHS recommends managing pain, discomfort or a fever with paracetamol and/or ibuprofen. There have been some news reports of anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen, making coronavirus worse.
The Commission on Human Medicines, part of the Dept of Health and Social Care, has now confirmed there is no clear evidence that using ibuprofen to treat symptoms such as a high temperature makes coronavirus worse.
For COVID cough and congestion relief, look for cough medicines containing Guaifenesin, which is an expectorant and helps clear the chest by loosening and thinning secretions so that they can easily be coughed up. It also has a soothing effect on the throat.
If you’re taking other medication, always check with your GP or pharmacist before taking over the counter medicines to help alleviate the symptoms of COVID.
It’s crucial to stay hydrated when trying to treat COVID at home, so drink plenty of fluids, especially if the fever is high. Healthy hydration levels can help to decrease nasal irritation when coughing, sneezing, and even just breathing. Moisture also helps heal broken membranes so additional bacteria can’t get into the body.
Drinks such as Gatorade Zero and Lucozade can help give you a boost by replenishing electrolytes, carbohydrates and vitamins.
It has been suggested it’s best to drink fluids at room temperature or warm them up to help relieve congestion, improve circulation and decrease stress levels (cup of tea cures all). Try warm water with lemon and little honey or a peppermint tea.
Whose mum used to swear by a bowl of chicken soup when you were feeling under the weather? Consuming warm soups and broths are a great way of keeping hydrated and getting antioxidant rich foods such as fruits and vegetables into your system. They are usually rich in Vitamin C too, which has immune boosting properties.
Potassium is one of the most important minerals in the body as it helps regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions and nerve signals. What’s more, a high-potassium diet may help reduce blood pressure which is important in periods of high stress such as the current pandemic. Try eating at least 1 – 2 eggs a day, bananas, avocado and asparagus.
Turmeric and Ginger
Turmeric and ginger both have anti-inflammatory properties and are high in antioxidants. Ginger is full of chemicals that help fight off colds and relieves stomach-related problems and Turmeric is a pain reliever. Try adding them to smoothies with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to get an extra vitamin C boost too.
Please note, Turmeric can have negative side effects when taken with other prescription medication, so check with your doctor or pharmacist first.
Honey can help to ease a COVID cough, try having a teaspoon of honey in hot water with lemon.
90% of Serotonin, the ‘happiness hormone’ – is produced in the gut and therefore your mental health can be greatly influenced by what you eat. Now more than ever, we need help to stay positive and therefore consuming lots of good probiotic foods such as plain unsweetened yogurt, apples, artichokes, onions, bananas and chicory can only help. Alternatively, you can take a supplement, however, there are many different types of probiotics on the market and results can be very individualised.
For most people, probiotics are safe and shouldn’t cause any unpleasant side effects. We recommend you do your research and use a reputable supplier such as Holland & Barrett. You may find a particular type of probiotic helps with one problem. But this doesn’t mean it’ll help other problems, or that other types of probiotic will work just as well.
Vitamins and Minerals
If you have COVID and are self-isolating it might be difficult for to eat a balanced and healthy diet due to lack of access and/or lack of energy to cook.
Zinc is an important mineral that boosts the immune system and has become one of the most popular suggestions for reducing symptoms of coronavirus. Dr.Morton Tavel, clinical professor emeritus of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, suggests:
“Although there is no direct evidence at this time, zinc does have antiviral properties and was shown in a laboratory study to inhibit the replication of coronaviruses in cells. Since there is little harm in such a strategy, it may be worth a try.”
We have lots more useful information in our Coronavirus section. From how to reduce isolation for the elderly to keeping connected online to accessing community support such as the NHS Volunteer Responder who can help get shopping, medicines and other essentials to the most vulnerable.
Frequently Asked Questions about Treating COVID at Home
When should I seek medical help?
It is vital that should COVID-19 symptoms persist and become severe enough for real concern, then you should contact NHS 111. Read the latest NHS advice on the Coronavirus.
What should I do if I test positive?
Remember it's a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive or are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. You could be fined if you do not self-isolate. For more information on when and how to self-isolate visit the NHS website.
How do I avoid spreading the virus to the people I live with?
If you can - stay on your own in one room as much as possible and keep the door closed; avoid using shared spaces (such as the kitchen) at the same time as other people and eat your meals in your room; use a separate bathroom - otherwise, use the bathroom after everyone else and clean it each time you use it, for example, by wiping the surfaces you've touched; consider wearing a face covering when in shared spaces; keep windows open in the room you're staying in and shared spaces as much as possible.