The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and breathing problems. Unless you have serious symptoms or your condition gets worse quickly, you can most likely treat your symptoms at home, like you would for a cold or the flu. Most people can recover from COVID-19 without the need for hospital care. Your doctor can help you decide whether it’s best to stay home or go the hospital.
Right now, scientists are trying to develop new medicines and test some existing antiviral drugs to see if they can treat COVID-19.
Though there isn’t any antiviral treatment yet, there are a number of things that can relieve symptoms, both at home and at the hospital.
If your symptoms are mild enough to recover at home, you should:
- Rest. It can make you feel better and may speed your recovery.
- Stay home. Don’t go to work, school, or public places.
- Drink fluids. You lose more water when you’re sick. Dehydration can make symptoms worse and cause other health problems.
- Monitor. If your symptoms get worse, call your doctor right away.
- Ask your doctor about over-the-counter medicines that may help, like acetaminophen to lower your fever.
The most important thing to do is to avoid infecting other people, especially those who are over 65 or who have other health problems.
- Try to stay in one place in your house: Use a separate bedroom and bathroom if you can.
- Tell others you’re sick so they keep their distance.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow.
- Wear a mask over your nose and mouth if you can.
- Wash regularly, especially your hands.
- Clean household surfaces like doorknobs, counters, and tabletops.
Treatment in a Hospital
You don’t need to seek hospital or emergency care for basic COVID-19 symptoms, like a mild fever or cough. If you do, many hospitals will tell you to recover at home.
If you have serious symptoms, like trouble breathing, or if your symptoms get worse suddenly, you may need to go to the hospital for treatment. If you think you need help right away, call your doctor’s office or hospital and tell them you’re on the way and that you think you might have COVID-19. That will help them prepare for your arrival.
Once medical staff determine that you likely have the virus and that your symptoms need hospital care, they will check for signs that the condition is causing more serious problems. They might:
- Check the levels of oxygen in your blood with a clip-on finger monitor
- Listen to your lungs
- Give you a chest X-ray or CT scan
You may get oxygen to breathe through two small tubes that go just inside your nostrils. In very serious cases, doctors will connect you to a machine that can breathe for you, called a ventilator.
You may also get fluids through a tube, or IV, in your arm to keep you from getting dehydrated. Doctors will also closely monitor your breathing. The hope is that the infection will run its course and your lungs will improve enough so that they can breathe on their own again.