A person can treat a mild case of COVID-19 at home. Although home treatment will not cure COVID-19, it can help relieve the symptoms a person is experiencing.

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes COVID-19.

In this article, we look at what to do if a person contracts SARS-CoV-2. We also discuss how a person can treat their symptoms at home.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise that a person seek emergency medical attention if they are showing any of the following signs:

It is important that a person calls ahead the local emergency facility to inform them that they are seeking care for someone who may have COVID-19.

The CDC define a mild illness as having “any of the various signs and symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, sore throat, malaise, headache, muscle pain) without shortness of breath, dyspnea, or abnormal chest imaging.”

They also state that a person can treat a mild illness at home. People should also monitor their symptoms and keep a doctor updated. A doctor can instruct a person when to go to the emergency room and what specific home treatments might work best for them.

A person who has COVID-19 should also:

  • stay home until a doctor clears them for contact with others
  • avoid other people in the home as much as possible
  • frequently wash their hands and cover their cough to avoid spreading the disease to others in the house
  • wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth when in contact or close quarters with other people

A number of home treatments may help manage symptoms of COVID-19.

These treatments do not cure the disease, but they may make a person more comfortable.

A healthcare professional can advise a person on how to treat their symptoms. However, the CDC recommend:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • remaining hydrated
  • taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as acetaminophen

A person can take acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, as they can help relieve fever and ease muscle aches and pains.

A person should also ensure that they drink plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration.

Initially, some people were concerned that ibuprofen might worsen COVID-19. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

Coughing is the body’s way of trying to clear the airways.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) advise that people with a cough avoid lying on their back. Instead, they should sit up or lie on their side.

To help ease coughing, a person can try the following:

  • drinking plenty of water or warm beverages to soothe the throat, prevent dehydration, and thin the mucus
  • sucking on cough drops
  • using a humidifier at night

Some people may also find relief by breathing in steam. To do this, they can sit in the shower or on the bathroom floor with a hot shower running.

The NHS note that feeling breathless can be a sign of a more severe SARS-CoV-2 infection.

If a person is feeling breathless, they should try to remain calm. Shortness of breath is a symptom that can be frightening, but panicking can cause hyperventilation, which can make it worse.

People experiencing shortness of breath should continue focusing on their breathing. It might also help to keep the room cool.

The NHS also suggest doing the following:

  • slowly inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth, keeping the lips close together
  • sitting in a chair with a long, straight spine
  • relaxing the shoulders and avoiding rounding the upper back
  • leaning forward slightly and placing the hands on the knees for support

Some evidence suggests that lying on the stomach might help people get more oxygen. This is because lying on the front of the body can stop the heart and stomach from pressing down on the lungs. This then results in the air sacks being able to fully inflate.

There are four positions a person can try:

Position one

Lie on the front of the body with the head turned to one side. Tuck both arms under the chest and shoulders.

A person can also use additional pillows under the shins to provide support to the hamstrings and toes.

Position two

Lie on the front of the body with the head turned to one side. Turn the arms out and up next to the head.

Place a pillow under the belly.

Position three

Lie on the front of the body with your head turned to one side and the leg on the same side bent at 90 degrees.

A person can support the leg with a pillow or blanket and place the arms wherever they feel most comfortable.

Position four

Lie on the side and place a pillow under the torso and knees.

It is not clear at the moment whether supplements can improve the outcomes of people with COVID-19. There are some studies, but the results are conflicting.

Vitamin D

A 2020 study found that when those who were deficient in vitamin D received a high dose of vitamin D supplementation, a greater population had no detectable SARS-CoV-2 RNA.

However, this study was small, and there is insufficient data to support using vitamin D to treat or prevent COVID-19.

Learn more about the role of vitamin D and COVID-19 here.

Vitamin C

One 2020 study notes that high doses of intravenous vitamin C lessened the severity of COVID-19 in 50 patients in China.

Earlier research, including a 2019 meta-analysis, suggests vitamin C may reduce the length of time people spend in the intensive care unit.

There are ongoing studies to test whether high doses of vitamin C can counteract some of the excessive inflammatory responses that healthcare professionals see in those with severe or critical disease.

However, there is insufficient data on using vitamin C to treat COVID-19.

The CDC urge people not to take any treatment for COVID-19 without the recommendation of a healthcare professional.

People have died or experienced serious harm after taking unapproved products to treat COVID-19.

One example includes non-pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate, which is a chemical that people use for home aquariums.

Pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate will not treat COVID-19, and a person should only ever take it under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

People should also avoid taking the following to treat COVID-19:

Antibiotics

SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus, and therefore antibiotics will not treat a coronavirus infection.

Sometimes, people with COVID-19 develop other infections. Even then, it is important to take the right type of antibiotic.

People should also avoid taking expired antibiotics or antibiotics prescribed to someone else. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state that expired or old antibiotics may lead to more serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance.

Herbal medicines

There is no evidence that herbal remedies can treat COVID-19. These drugs may also interact dangerously with some prescription medications.

Prescription drugs

People should not take someone else’s prescription drugs even if a doctor prescribed those drugs to treat COVID-19 in someone else.

Only a few prescription drugs and medical products may help with COVID-19, and those are usually only safe for people to have under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

To further support recovery, a person should drink plenty of fluids and rest as much as possible.

The World Health Organization (WHO) state that most people typically recover after 2–6 weeks.

However, some people may experience long-term effects of COVID-19, also known as long COVID or long-haul COVID.

Symptoms can include:

Learn more about long COVID here.

If a person has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, they need to stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days since the last exposure.

The CDC suggest the following time frames before seeing other people, and they urge that a person must experience all of the following before seeing others:

  • 10 days since their symptoms first appeared
  • if they have had 24 hours with no fever, without the use of medications to reduce the fever
  • other symptoms of COVID are improving

People can treat mild cases of COVID-19 at home. They should ensure that they remain hydrated, get plenty of rest, and take OTC medications to reduce fever and pain.

If a person is experiencing shortness of breath, they should try to remain calm and try different positions to make it easier to breathe. If the shortness of breath is persistent or worsens, they should seek medical attention.