There are currently no approved medications or vaccines that can cure or prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections or the resulting illness, COVID-19. At present, prevention is the best treatment.
In this article, we discuss tips for preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection and managing COVID-19 symptoms.
Read on to find out how to treat the illness at home and how doctors treat severe symptoms in hospitals.
This article will also discuss current treatment and vaccine investigations.
As of May 5, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported more than 3.5 million confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses worldwide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person can have a SARS-CoV-2 infection for 2–14 days before they develop symptoms of COVID-19.
People with the following symptoms or a combination of them may have COVID-19:
- shortness of breath
- difficulty breathing
The disease may also be present if someone has at least two of these symptoms:
There are several protective measures people can take against contracting SARS-CoV-2 and going on to develop COVID-19.
The first step involves understanding which populations have a higher risk of contracting a SARS-CoV-2 infection. It also helps to know what groups have a higher risk of developing severe complications from an infection.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets in the air or on contaminated surfaces.
As a result, healthcare professionals and individuals caring for people with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections have an increased risk of contracting an infection.
According to the CDC, the following also have a high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms:
- people aged 65 years and older
- individuals living in a nursing home
- people with uncontrolled or severe health conditions
- people with weakened immune systems
- people with severe obesity
Avoiding or limiting contact with people showing COVID-19 symptoms or with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection is the best way to prevent the spread of infection.
People who do not develop symptoms can still transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others. As a result, people should practice physical distancing.
Physical distancing means keeping 2 meters (six feet) away from people when outside, limiting contact with others, and avoiding large public gatherings, as much as possible.
Other precautions against COVID-19 include:
- staying at home as often as possible
- wearing a face mask in public areas
- avoiding touching the face, eyes, nose, or mouth when around others or if hands are dirty
- covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing
- washing hands with soap and warm water frequently
- disinfecting commonly used objects, including electronics, keys, doorknobs, and countertops
The protective measures discussed above may help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2. However, these measures do not guarantee complete protection against COVID-19.
A majority of people — about 80% — who develop COVID-19 symptoms do not require hospital treatment.
People who think they might have COVID-19 can consider the following tips:
- staying home unless seeking medical care
- tracking symptoms and keeping in contact with healthcare providers
- avoiding public places, such as grocery stores and public transport
- wearing a face mask or cloth covering over the nose and mouth when around other people
- self-isolating from other members of the household until symptoms resolve
- washing hands and using hand sanitizer often
People can also consider the following at-home treatments for any COVID-19 symptoms they develop:
- drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated
- taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) for body aches, headache, and fever
- trying cough syrup or throat lozenges for persistent coughing
- drinking warm liquids, such as tea or soup, to relieve a sore throat
The CDC recommend that people with COVID-19 symptoms can end their home isolation if:
- at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared
- at least 10 days have passed since they received a positive COVID-19 test
- they have not had a fever for 3 consecutive days without using fever reducing medications
- they can breathe easily and notice improvements in other respiratory symptoms
Most people develop mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19. However, some individuals experience severe respiratory symptoms, including:
- severe fatigue
- difficulty breathing
- persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- bluish lips or face
People who experience one or more of these symptoms should seek immediate medical care. A doctor may treat a person with severe COVID-19 symptoms with one or more of the following:
- Mechanical ventilation: This involves inserting a tube into a person’s lungs through their nose or mouth. The other end of the tube connects to a device called a respirator. The respirator uses pressure to send oxygenated air into the lungs and remove carbon dioxide from the body. Doctors also call this intubation.
- Intravenous (IV) treatment: This can treat and prevent dehydration and restore electrolytes to the body.
- Sedative treatment: This can include antipsychotic or anti-anxiety medications. This treatment can help people who experience significant psychological distress, delirium, or confusion.
Researchers around the world are working on testing and developing potential therapies for COVID-19.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) recently launched several clinical trials for potential COVID-19 treatments.
On March 28, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the anti-malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for the treatment of severe COVID-19 symptoms.
However, the FDA released a statement on April 24, 2020, warning that both medications carry the risk of “serious and potentially life threatening heart rhythm problems.”
In this statement, they warn against using hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine outside of hospital or clinical research settings.
Also, on April 24, 2020, researchers at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom announced that they had begun testing a COVID-19 vaccine in volunteers.
The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine derives from a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in chimpanzees, but not humans.
Earlier in April 2020, several government organizations and private pharmaceutical companies from the United States and Europe initiated the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership.
The ACTIV program will focus on identifying potential vaccine and drug candidates for future clinical trials.
The NIAID, in partnership with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, began investigating the effects remdesivir in February 2020. While information is scarce, in a clinical trial, remdesivir shortened recovery time from coronavirus in some individuals.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) predict that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available for emergency use in the U.S. by 2021.
Currently, there are no approved drugs or vaccines available for treating or preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections. However, researchers and public health agencies around the world are working to find treatments and other medications.
People can prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 by practicing protective measures, such as physical distancing in public spaces and self-quarantine when sick. Limiting or avoiding contact with people who have a suspected or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection can also help reduce the risk of getting sick.
Those who show mild to moderate symptoms may be able to use self-care at home. Severe symptoms may require intensive medical intervention and hospitalization.