Is There a Coronavirus Treatment? Here's How to Handle Your Symptoms

If you think you have COVID-19, here's what to do and how to treat the virus.

The coronavirus pandemic that's spreading across the world—and the 24-hour news coverage that comes with it—has a lot of people reasonably concerned that they might be showing symptoms. And a serious lack of testing, worries that health care facilities and hospitals will be overwhelmed by symptomatic patients, and no cure for coronavirus are sending people into a panic. But just because there is no cure for COVID-19, that doesn't mean there isn't doctor-recommended treatment steps anyone who suspects they have coronavirus should take.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

First of all, being exposed to COVID-19 does not mean one automatically needs to go to the emergency room. Also, the vast majority of healthy individuals who contract coronavirus will be able to handle the sickness at home (more on that below).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure: fever, cough, and shortness of breath."

As you can see, the symptoms aren't terribly unique from the common flu. Because COVID-19 presents as a respiratory illness, the shortness of breath and dry cough are what many experts say to look out for, in addition to achiness and fatigue.

Who is at the highest risk of dying from coronavirus?

More important than the symptoms, however, is one's overall health, coronavirus aside. Anyone with a compromised immune system, or anyone who is sick from another chronic or acute malady, is at a much greater risk than those who are otherwise healthy. A recent study, as reported by Bloomberg, shows that 99 percent of those who died from coronavirus in Italy had other illnesses. So if symptoms of COVID-19 present in an already sick or infirm individual, contact a medical professional or go to the hospital.

What's the treatment for coronavirus?

At a hospital, people with coronavirus are typically treated with "fluids to reduce the risk of dehydration, medication to reduce a fever, [and] supplemental oxygen in more severe cases," according to Heathline.

Given the time needed for testing, a cure for coronavirus will not likely reveal itself anytime soon. But there are treatments for other diseases (like malaria, ebola, and the standard flu) that give medical professionals hope. Expect to hear a lot more about potential coronavirus treatments—like chloroquine, remdesivr, APN01, lopinavir, and ritonavir—in the coming weeks and months. (Healthline has a rundown of future treatments here.)

What should I do if I think I have coronavirus?

If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, here is a guide, via Healthline, on the best practices to both keep you healthy and to not overwhelm our health care system:

  1. Gauge how sick you are. Ask yourself how likely it is that you came into contact with the coronavirus. If you live in a region that has had an outbreak, or if you've recently traveled abroad, you may be at an increased risk of exposure.
  2. Call your doctor. If you have mild symptoms, call your doctor. To reduce transmission of the virus, many clinics are encouraging people to call or use live chat instead of coming into a clinic. Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and work with local health authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine if you need to be tested.
  3. Stay home. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or another type of viral infection, stay home and get plenty of rest. Be sure to stay away from other people and avoid sharing items like drinking glasses, utensils, keyboards, and phones.

What over-the-counter medication should I take for mild coronavirus symptoms?

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises against taking ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, and any generic versions) for coronavirus symptoms. A recent study in the medical journal The Lancet found that an enzyme boosted by ibuprofen could potentially worsen COVID-19 infections.

Instead, you should be using acetaminophen (AKA paracetamol) to help reduce fever and ease aches and pains related to coronavirus.

WHO has not made any specific recommendations regarding naproxen (like Aleve and Naprosyn), but Harvard Health says that "given naproxen and ibuprofen have similar actions, it's best to avoid naproxen as well."

The Mayo Clinic also says you can take cough syrup or medication to alleviate your cough.

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