Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), also known as SARS-COV-2, has been a global concern since early 2020. Many controversies surround COVID-19 and what to do in the case of infection.

This article includes helpful patient education suggestions for the successful management of COVID-19 at home and when it is appropriate to seek medical attention. Preparations for the unfortunate event of becoming infected should focus on both the treatment of the illness and the prevention of spread.

What to have on hand to be prepared:
  • Thermometer
  • Hand soap and hand sanitizer
  • Face masks
  • OTC medications  
  • Enough food and beverages to avoid trips to the store
  • Sanitizer for surfaces
  • A plan on how to isolate a family member or house mate if someone falls ill
    • Dishes, bedding, towels, and other personal items that will not be shared
    • An area of the house and private bathroom (if possible)
  • Tissues and toilet paper (but please don’t hoard)
  • Prescription medications taken on a usual basis
  • Other supplies regularly used such as pet food, soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, etc.

When to get tested
Testing is recommended for anyone experiencing the symptoms described below, anyone exposed (within 6 ft for ≥ 15 minutes over a 24-hour period) to a person with confirmed COVID-19, and anyone referred by a physician or health official.1 While waiting for test results, individuals should self-quarantine and follow the advice of health care providers and/or public health officials.

The following is a list of symptoms associated with COVID-19:1
 
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Fever or chills
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Fatigue
  • Sinus congestion
  • Sore throat

General treatment measures
Treatment of COVID-19 at home is largely symptom based and is comparable to the treatment of a common cold or the flu. First and foremost, for those diagnosed or exposed to COVID-19, it is imperative to stay home and avoid contact with others as much as possible in order to reduce the spread of the virus.2  

If it’s not possible to completely quarantine for the recommended 10 days, it is important to wear a mask, keep a safe distance (at least 6 ft away), and avoid sharing personal items such as dishes, towels, or bedding. Covering coughs, frequent hand washing (for a full 20 seconds), and frequent washing of bedding and surfaces are also essential infection control measures. As with other illnesses, rest and adequate hydration should be prioritized.

Having things on hand such as water, broth, and tea can be useful preparation. Beverages should be mostly unsweetened, as sweetened beverages can exacerbate gastrointestinal distress.

Finally, close monitoring of symptoms will help to determine whether a trip to the physician or hospital is necessary. Individuals who have or think they might have COVID-19 should let their provider know prior to any medical appointment, as many medical offices have special procedures in place to prevent the spread of the infection.2

Treating adults
Symptom OTC Medications
Cough
  • Dextromethorphan (Delsym, Robitussin)
  • Cough drops
Fever
  • Tylenol or ibuprofen
Diarrhea
  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Loperamide (Imodium)
Nausea/Vomiting
  • Meclizine (Dramamine)
Sinus congestion
  • Mucinex, Sudafed
Sore throat
  • Cough drops
  • Cepacol lozenges

Treating kids
Generally, OTC medications are only meant for use in children over 4 years of age. Please consult a pediatrician if your child is younger than 4 years old.
 
Symptom OTC Medications
Cough
  • Dextromethorphan (Delsym, Robitussin)
Fever
  • Tylenol or ibuprofen
Diarrhea
  • Pedialyte
Nausea/Vomiting
  • Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine for Kids)
Sinus congestion
  • Mucinex
  • Phenylephrine (Children’s Sudafed PE)
  • Humidifiers
Sore throat
  • Halls Kids Cough and Sore Throat Pops

When to go to the hospital
If any of the following symptoms develop, regardless of COVID-19 infection status, seek immediate medical assistance or dial 911.1
 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Confusion (new or worsening)
  • Extreme drowsiness or inability to waken
  • Blue lips or face

When it is acceptable to end isolation
While symptoms may begin to improve after the first few days, it is essential to remain in self-quarantine for at least 10 days after symptom onset.3 If symptoms continue for 10 days, isolation should continue for at least 24 hours after resolution of fever or after other symptoms have improved.

For those who tested positive for COVID-19 but never developed any symptoms of illness, self-quarantine should also last for a full 10 days.3

Helpful resources
There are many resources available to find out more information on COVID-19. Here are some of our recommendations:
 
  • CDC Website
  • Local/state public health department

References
  1. Symptoms of coronavirus. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19). CDC website. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2020. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html Accessed October 8, 2020.
  2. What to do if you are sick. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19). CDC website. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2020. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html Accessed October 8, 2020.
  3. When you can be around others after you had or likely had COVID-19. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19). CDC website. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2020. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/end-home-isolation.html Accessed October 8, 2020.