A doctor's advice on tackling Covid-19 symptoms at home

With a good proportion of the UK vaccinated and strong plans to vaccinate more, things are looking hopeful for a steady decline in Covid-19 hospitalisation rates and deaths.

But we are not completely in the clear, without a cure, experts warn that coronavirus could be around for years.

This makes it even more important to understand how to best manage these symptoms at home.

I’ve grouped the common symptoms of Covid-19 with easy and effective ways to manage each symptom from home (should they arise), with the hope of reducing the duration and severity of symptoms.

How to treat a Covid cough

Covid can present with a cough, typically described as a continuous cough lasting greater than 24 hours. So, what can you do?

Honey has powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties and is also thick enough to coat an irritated throat. Just a spoonful of honey a night has the ability to improve cough and sore throat symptoms.

Studies have consistently found that treatment combined with honey has been superior in reducing viral symptoms, compared to treatment without honey, for both adults and children.

Remember though that babies under 12 months old should not be given honey due to the risk of botulinum toxicity. Honey can also be added to hot water along with other beneficial foods like lemon and ginger to maximise the benefits.

Positioning is also very important. Typically, laying down leads to mucus pooling at the back of the throat, irritating it and causing you to cough more.

For this reason, it is best to position yourself upright as much as possible and avoid lying flat on your back to sleep.

The research behind cough medicines suggest that they are generally not effective in reducing cough symptoms. However, considering they are not harmful, they can be used and effective for individuals on a case-by-case basis.

Cough suppressants on the other hand, like pholcodine linctus, are available for adults over the counter and work by suppressing the cough reflex, thereby providing symptomatic relief for people with a continuous dry cough.

How to treat a Covid fever

Covid typically presents with a temperature over 37.8 degrees. It is important for every household to have a functioning thermometer to be able to check when a fever presents.

Fevers work by creating an undesirable temperature to kill the virus or bacteria, as well as kickstarting your immune system. It can make you feel very poorly, sweat and lose more fluids, as well as reduce your appetite.

This makes it even more important to drink plenty of fluid (2L a day) and avoid dehydration to replace the lost electrolytes and water.

It is advised to rest, because sleeping helps your immune system work better. It allows your body to conserve energy and redirect it to areas needed to fight off the infection.

The Government is still giving sick notes online for Covid-19 infection, so that you can take the proper time to isolate and rest, away from the business of everyday life.

Muscular aches and pains all over the body can sometimes accompany fevers. Paracetamol and ibuprofen are adequate painkillers and also bring down your temperature to make you feel a little more yourself.

It’s important to note, contrary to the buzz in the beginning, there is actually no clear evidence that anti-inflammatory medication, like ibuprofen, makes coronavirus worse.

How to cope with Covid breathlessness

Breathlessness can occur with Covid-19 infection, varying from not feeling you are able to breathe deeply enough to not being able to catch your breath.

This occurs because Covid-19 can affect the lining of the lungs and cause a constant inflammation which impairs the ability to transfer gases, like oxygen – necessary for normal function.

It can be very useful to purchase a CE marked pulse oximeter. This is a little device which sits on the tip of your finger and reads the percentage of oxygen saturation in your blood. Optimal reading is 100% and below 94% you would be advised to seek further input from your doctor or 111.

If you’re feeling breathless, it can help to keep your surrounding environment cool, by opening a window or turning down the central heating. Fans are not advised as this can spread the virus particles.

A number of simple breathing exercises can also help, such as breathing slowly and deeply.

An example of a lung physiotherapy exercise involves inhaling through the nose and exhaling slowly through pursed lips (like you are blowing out a candle), ensuring the exhale is at least as twice as long as the inhale.

Unlike when you have a cough, lying on your front with your head to one side is more beneficial when you are feeling short of breath.

Breathing deeply and slowly helps you to improve the capacity of your lungs but also to reduce anxiety, which can make your breathing symptoms worse.

How to deal with a loss of smell and taste

As we know, Covid-19 affects people’s sense of smell and taste. The reason why is largely unknown.

We understand that the virus enters and largely sits in the nose and mouth, (why samples are taken from these areas) and possibly affects the cells that supports the nerve cells in the nose.

Knowing that, it would be advised for people with both Covid-19 infection and people with loss of sense of smell and taste due to Covid to wash their nose and mouth daily. Although there haven’t been any rigorous studies done, preliminary ones have been promising.

For the mouth, a simple antimicrobial mouthwash will be beneficial, while for the nose, nasal irrigation with saline solution will be advised. Both these measures remove microorganisms, like bacteria and viruses.

What you should do if you’re asymptomatic

Current data suggests that about 30% of people infected with Covid may experience no symptoms at all.

As always, regardless of whether you experience symptoms or not adequate hygiene practices are paramount. Here’s what you need to be doing:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 second with soap and water where possible
  • When out and about use hand sanitisers with at least 60% alcohol
  • Blow your nose and sneeze into a tissue and discard it immediately into a bin
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch areas and surfaces regularly with disposable gloves
  • Ensure adequate fluid and nutrition in order to get the maximal antioxidant and antimicrobial properties to help support your immune system. Additional supplementation of minerals and vitamins may be required in those who are deficient, over 50 or have medical problems that affect their ability to absorb nutrients. A recent study in December 2020 with a small sample size looked at high dose Vitamin D supplementation in individuals who were deficient and found a link with a higher proportion of no detectable virus.
  • Of course, remember to self-isolate at home, with the rest of your household whilst infected with Covid-19. If your symptoms are not improving after 7 days or are worsening, then seek medical attention as soon as possible. In an emergency, call 999 and inform the call handler that you have a current Covid-19 infection.

As it is not advised to leave your house whilst you have a current infection, you can plan ahead for the possibility by buying the necessary medications, items and equipment detailed in this article.

For more little actions that make a big difference to your overall health and wellness, follow @lifeofdrkandi on Instagram.

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