Easing the Symptoms of COVID-19

Many individuals experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms are advised to stay at home and practice self-care measures until symptoms subside. Which over-the-counter medicine and home remedies help with a fever? Are dry and wet coughs treated differently? What’s this we’re hearing about losing the ability to taste or smell? And what symptoms indicate that a higher level of medical attention is needed? As always, your primary caregiver is your number one resource for medical information and advice, but UMass Memorial Health Care offers these tips to help you feel better soon.

Fever: Drink six to eight glasses of fluids to stay hydrated. This replaces fluids lost when you sweat and improves heat loss through your skin. Dress in one layer of lightweight clothing, and sleep with one light blanket. For fevers above 101 F, take acetaminophen (Tylenol). Anecdotal information has shown that taking ibuprofen (Motrin) could make symptoms worse. Take a lukewarm shower or bath for 10 minutes. Lukewarm water should not make you shiver, but it should cool you off. Call your doctor if your fever lasts more than three days (72 hours) or gets worse.

Cough: Some people find that over-the-counter (OTC) cough syrups help decrease coughing. Dextromethorphan (DM) is the most common cough suppressant in OTC cough syrups. Coughdrops can help too. They work best for mild coughs. Don’t try to stop coughs if you’re coughing up phlegm. Coughing is helpful in bringing up mucus from the lungs and helps prevent pneumonia. Drinking warm fluids and breathing in warm mist will relax your airway and loosen up the phlegm.

Shortness of breath: Trouble breathing is a more serious symptom. If you’re having persistent or severe trouble breathing, seek medical attention. Call your doctor or emergency room before going in to tell them your symptoms. They’ll give you guidance on your next steps.

Loss of smell: Called anosmia, a loss of smell has been a common thread in some with COVID-19. Most likely, your smell will return on its own, and treatment won’t be needed. You could try an over-the-counter decongestant. If your smell doesn’t come back within a few days, call your doctor for guidance.

Altered sense of taste: Dysgeusia is a distortion of taste that could leave a foul taste in your mouth. This condition should only be temporary and may be helped with good oral hygiene and artificial saliva products. If your taste doesn’t go back to normal within a few days, call your doctor for guidance.

Monitor your symptoms carefully. If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include but aren’t limited to:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to be woken up
  • Bluish lips or face

If you or someone is sick in your household, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

And remember, this advice isn’t a substitute for the professional consultation of a physician or qualified health care provider. If you have specific questions or concerns regarding a health or medical condition, please contact your physician or appropriately licensed health care professional.

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