6 Things You Can Do at Home to Help Relieve COVID Symptoms, According to a Doctor

Here are 6 tips to help cope with—and even relieve—coronavirus symptoms if you're sick at home.

Ill Woman Sneezing At Home
Photo: Getty Images / Antonio_Diaz

As more and more Americans test positive for COVID-19, many of us are fighting the virus at home. It's a fortunate position to be in, that's for sure—and fingers crossed it stays that way and omicron remains a milder variant. But you're still probably going to want to find ways to relieve your symptoms.

COVID-19, aka the coronavirus, is just that—a virus. And how you cope with your COVID symptoms isn't all that different from how you manage other viruses. "The same remedies you have used for the flu and colds before COVID can be applied to many COVID symptoms," says Starr Steinhilber, M.D., M.P.H., an internal medicine physician and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine.

"Since there are no widely used antivirals, viruses just have to run their course," says Steinhilber. Fortunately, many over-the-counter medications can help that time pass more easily, as can other easy-to-follow at-home remedies. Here are six science-backed strategies to try at home.

6 Ways to Help Relieve Symptoms at Home

First and foremost, if you just tested positive for COVID, it's important to stay home and separate yourself from other people as much as possible, keep in touch with your primary care provider and take care of yourself. Here are a few things you can do to check off that last box.

1. Take anti-inflammatory medicines

"Ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are your best friends," Steinhilber says. "Most of the symptoms from COVID—and any virus—stem from inflammation, and the category of 'anti-inflammatory' medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen help tremendously with many of the symptoms. They can work magic on a sore throat, muscle aches and headache."

Remember, though, that if you have liver injury, limit your Tylenol/acetaminophen use. And if you have kidney impairment, limit Advil/ibuprofen use.

2. Keep decongestants on hand

Available in sprays, pills, syrups and even flavored powders, decongestants (like Sudafed) reduce the swelling of your nose's blood vessels, which helps to open up your airway. "Decongestants help with sinus congestion and pressure, as well as headaches," says Steinhilber.

3. Drink plenty of fluids

You've heard this advice before, but do you know why? Here's a great explanation: "Most viruses, COVID included, don't have direct effects on most of your organs. However, if a virus prevents you from eating and drinking well, the resulting dehydration lowers your blood volume, and that can cause kidney and liver injury," explains Steinhilber. Thus, staying hydrated is extremely important.

4. Add hot liquids to your list

There's a reason why chicken soup continues to be a go-to when we're under the weather—its benefits aren't just old wives' tales. There's actually a little bit of research that has found drinking hot liquids (like soup and herbal teas) may have a slight anti-inflammatory effect and also loosen up a stuffy nose and get it running a bit.

5. Try meditation

Meditation can help lower your stress—and anxiety too, if you have it. "Meditation can also help you decipher if any breathing difficulty is in fact stemming from your lungs," says Steinhilber. "Anytime you are short of breath, it's hard to know if it's a head problem (i.e., anxiety) or a lung problem."

6. Sleep on your stomach

Called sleeping prone, it's a position that research shows allows your lungs to expand better, and that supports the body's effort to clear fluid buildup in the lungs. Here's how to sleep prone: lie on your stomach with your head on a pillow and turned to one side. You can add another pillow under your stomach, hips or shins if you need additional support. Get more details here.

The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change quickly; it's possible that information or data has changed since publication. While EatingWell is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC, WHO and their local public health department as resources.

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