OTC Medications to Treat Mild COVID-19 Symptoms
The coronavirus pandemic continues to dramatically change the lives of people throughout America and across the globe. We learn more about the virus every day, and scientists are testing medications to find a treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. However, there is currently no vaccine or cure for COVID-19.
Fortunately, The CDC states that the majority of COVID-19 cases can be treated at home, much the same way that you would care for yourself or a family member with a cold or the flu. We’ll cover the over-the-counter drugs you can use to treat mild coronavirus symptoms at home.
The most common COVID-19 symptom is fever. The Mayo Clinic recommends having a pain reliever on-hand to treat fever and muscle aches. If you or a family member is suffering from a fever it can be treated with a pain reliever like Tylenol (acetaminophen). Acetaminophen is a safe and effective choice for treating fever symptoms. It can also help to relieve muscle aches and pains, another potential symptom of the virus.
Acetaminophen is frequently prescribed by doctors to reduce fevers and is considered generally safe. However, be careful not to exceed a total daily dose of 3,000mg. Too much of the drug is known to cause liver damage.
Additionally, avoid taking more than one product containing acetaminophen - this includes other OTC drugs like many cough medicines, which contain acetaminophen.
There were early reports that Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), particularly ibuprofen, could cause COVID-19 symptoms to worsen. Currently, the FDA reports that it is “not aware of scientific evidence connecting the use of NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, with worsening COVID-19 symptoms.”
Additionally, the World Health Organization has stated: "Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen."
If you’re concerned about the use of ibuprofen, or any other pain reliever, check with your doctor or pharmacist before using the medication to treat a fever or other COVID-19 symptoms.
A dry cough is among the most common COVID-19 symptoms. Alongside fever reducing medication, the Mayo Clinic recommends having cough medicine available. If you’ve been infected with the coronavirus and your cough is troublesome or keeps you awake at night, OTC medicines can help reduce your cough.
If you do use a cough syrup, If you do use a cough syrup, experts recommend dextromethorphan as effective for treating dry cough. Dextromethorphan is one of the mostly widely used cough suppressants and is found in a number of OTC drugs, from Robitussin to Nyquil. Many cough or cold medications will have “DM”, for dextromethorphan, labeled on their packaging.
As with any other medication, avoid taking other drugs that also contain dextromethorphan. If you are still experiencing a cough after taking medication, cough drops or throat lozenges can also help. Other remedies include sipping a warm beverage like tea, particularly with honey or lemon.
While less commonly reported, COVID-19 may cause a stuffy or runny nose for some people. If you’re suffering from nasal congestion, you can use an OTC decongestant containing guaifenesin like Mucinex. Likewise, medicines containing phenylephrine can help reduce sinus congestion, pain, and swelling. Sudafed is the most common brand name medication containing phenylephrine, but many pharmacies will also carry generic drugs, as well.
If your condition worsens or your symptoms do not improve after seven days, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. If it's not an emergency, contact your healthcare provider first.
If you have any of the following severe symptoms of COVID-19, the CDC recommends that you seek medical attention immediately:
● Severe difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
● Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
● New confusion or inability to arouse
● Bluish lips or face
If seeking emergency medical care, emergency rooms and urgent care centers request that individuals call ahead before visiting. This gives staff time to properly prepare for your arrival and to take any necessary precautions.
While not necessary for treating infection from the coronavirus, medical experts recommend that individuals who take prescription drugs keep at least a 30-day supply on-hand. Those who show symptoms or who may have been exposed are asked to self-quarantine for at least 14 days. Having a minimum of a 30-day supply of your prescription medications will help get you through this period. If you don’t have a 30-day supply, get your prescriptions delivered to your home.
Check with your pharmacist to see if they allow for a 90-day refill on any of your medications. This can make stocking up on your Rx medications much easier. If your insurance doesn’t cover 90-day prescriptions and you have to pay out of pocket for your medications, compare prices to make sure you’re paying the lowest price.
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