COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease that can cause life threatening symptoms. There is currently no cure, but some treatments are available to help manage it.

In this article, we discuss the treatment strategies available for COVID-19, at home and in the hospital.

We also look at what to do if someone has symptoms, current vaccine options, and how to avoid infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.

Stay informed with live updates on the current COVID-19 outbreak and visit our coronavirus hub for more advice on prevention and treatment.

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Two drugs can help manage COVID-19 in some people with severe symptoms who are receiving treatment in the hospital, according to the National Institutes of Health. They are:

Veklury (remdesivir)

Veklury (remdesivir) is an antiviral drug that may slow the replication of the virus in the body.

According to the FDA, studies have shown that using Veklury could speed up the recovery time from COVID-19. The median recovery time was 10 days for people taking Veklury compared with 15 days for those in the placebo group.

Dexamethasone

Corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone, may help manage symptoms in people with COVID-19 by reducing inflammation. They also may reduce the risk of death in some people with severe symptoms.

A doctor may prescribe both steroids and antivirals in some cases.

As scientists continue to research the disease and potential treatments, more drugs may receive government approval. First, however, clinical trials must show that they are safe and effective.

Hydroxycholoquine is not a safe option

Early in the pandemic, the FDA gave approval to use the antimalarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as an emergency treatment for COVID-19 symptoms.

They later warned of a risk of “serious and potentially life threatening heart rhythm problems” when using these drugs, and withdrew the approval in June.

About 80% of people who develop COVID-19 symptoms do not require hospital treatment.

The following strategies may help manage mild to moderate symptoms at home:

  • Getting plenty of rest.
  • Drinking water regularly to stay hydrated.
  • Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) for body aches, headaches, and fever.
  • Drinking warm liquids, such as tea or soup, to relieve a sore throat.
  • Laying on one side or sitting upright to ease a cough.

Other measures for those with symptoms

If a person believes they may have COVID-19, they should take the following steps to try to avoid passing the virus on to others:

  • Staying home other than to seek medical help.
  • Keeping in touch with a healthcare provider.
  • When possible, staying in a separate room and wearing a face covering if there is a chance of contact with others.
  • Practicing frequent handwashing.
  • Getting a test to determine if they have the virus.
  • Informing any close contacts if they have symptoms or a positive test result, to enable them to take precautions.
  • Tracking their symptoms so that they know how long to self-isolate and if they should seek further treatment.

Monoclonal antibody treatments

In some cases, a doctor may prescribe drugs known as monoclonal antibodies. They may help people avoid the need for hospital treatment if they have mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 but a high risk of developing severe symptoms.

The drugs are not suitable for people who are in the hospital or who need oxygen therapy.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have given emergency use approval for two such treatments: bamlanivumab and a combination of casirivimab and imdevimab. They do not yet have full approval, as research into their safety and effectiveness is ongoing.

When should I go to the hospital?

A person should eek emergency medical help if they start to experience:

  • breathing difficulty
  • ongoing pain or pressure in the chest
  • confusion
  • difficulty waking or staying awake
  • a blue tinge to the lips or face

People with severe symptoms should seek immediate medical care and may need to spend time in the hospital. Treatment may involve one or more of the following:

Breathing assistance

People who have difficulty breathing may need help getting oxygen into their blood. A doctor may recommend:

  • supplemental oxygen
  • mechanical ventilation, using intubation and a mechanical respirator

Drug treatment

A doctor may use the following drugs, if appropriate:

  • remdesivir (Veklury), to slow the progression of the virus
  • corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone, to reduce inflammation

Complications

Some people develop complications, such as kidney failure, shock, blood clots, and sepsis. A doctor will recommend treatment specific to the complication.

Learn more here about how infection with COVID-19 affects the body.

Vaccines are becoming available to protect people from COVID-19. They will be free of charge for all Americans.

Two vaccines currently have approval for use in the U.S.:

  • the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
  • the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

The vaccines appear to offer up to 95% protection. In each case a person will need two doses.

Globally, a range of vaccines is undergoing trials. In time, more options may become available.

Here, find out more about the vaccines available in the United States, how they work, and when people can expect to have access to a vaccine.

A person can have the virus for 2–14 days before symptoms appear, and some people never have symptoms. However, people can pass on the virus, even when they have no symptoms.

Here are some ways to help prevent infection with the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Limiting contact with other people, especially in public places.
  • Staying at home when possible.
  • Keeping at least 2 meters (6 feet) away from other people when outside.
  • Wearing a face covering in public places.
  • Avoiding touching the face, eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Covering the mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing, disposing of the tissue at once, and washing the hands.
  • Washing hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, or using hand sanitizer.
  • Disinfecting objects that people frequently touch, such as doorknobs.
  • Booking a test if a person has symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus.

Read more about ways to prevent COVID-19 here.

How long should I isolate?

The CDC advise people to self-isolate:

  • for at least 10 days after first experiencing symptoms or receiving a positive test result
  • until they have not had a fever for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medications
  • until other symptoms have improved

For people with severe symptoms, a doctor may advise them to isolate for 20 days after symptoms first appear.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • a fever
  • chills
  • a cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • body aches
  • headaches
  • a new loss of smell or taste
  • sore throat
  • congestion
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea

Here, find out which symptoms to look out for in the early stages of COVID-19.

Experts continue to investigate effective ways to treat, manage, and prevent infection with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19. There is currently no cure, but treatment may help manage symptoms.

Vaccines are starting to become available. Meanwhile, the best way to prevent the spread of disease is to limit contact with other people, wear a face covering in public places, wash the hands frequently, and isolate if symptoms appear.

People can treat mild to moderate symptoms at home. If a person develops severe symptoms, they may need hospital treatment. A doctor may recommend supplemental oxygen and medication to manage the symptoms and help slow the replication of the virus.