Health Care

How to Treat a Cough from Coronavirus at Home

A woman coughing.
Choose the health content that's right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox

If you have coronavirus and mild symptoms, chances are you’re isolating at home. The good news is that the recovery rate is positive, at 80%. The bad news is that you’re likely struggling with one or more of the main symptoms, which include fever, shortness of breath and a severe dry cough.

These symptoms can appear two to 14 days after exposure, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC advises that most people will have symptoms for a few days and get better after about a week. People who are sick should drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated, get lots of rest and take steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, says the CDC.

Tackling Your Coronavirus Cough

While you’re recovering at home, what can you do about your cough?

The CDC says that over-the-counter medicines may help with symptoms, but doesn’t specify which ones work best. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that some Western, traditional or home remedies may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms.

There are two nonmedication strategies you can use to try to help relieve a cough caused by COVID-19 at home, according to leading health authorities. And if you are considering using an over-the-counter medication, there are some important things you need to know to make an informed choice. Read on to learn more.

Cough Relief Without Medicine

Nonmedication treatments for coughs include drinking plenty of fluids, especially warm drinks, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Drinking plenty of fluids also helps prevent someone who’s sick from becoming dehydrated, which can also be caused by fever.

A cough can be quite irritating to the throat. For adults, cough drops or hard candies might help soothe a sore throat and reduce the urge to cough, according to the CDC.

Consider asking your doctor whether to use a humidifier. For dry coughs, the extra moisture from a humidifier can help make it easier to breathe. While this hasn’t been proven specifically for coronavirus, humidifiers are useful for other respiratory illnesses.

Considering Kids and Cough Medications

The FDA does not recommend using over-the-counter medications for cough and cold symptoms in children younger than age two. As a result of this decision, many manufacturers relabeled their products to state that they should not be given to children younger than age four. Be aware that many of these products contain multiple ingredients, which can lead to accidental overdosing, says the FDA.

The FDA advises that over-the-counter cold and cough products can be harmful to children if they take:

  • Doses too often
  • More than one product containing the same drug
  • More than the recommended amount
  • Medicines that are intended for adults

Check out this sample Drug Facts label for an over-the-counter cough and cold medication, provided as an example on the FDA’s Website. Notice the drug names in the Active Ingredients section and the Warnings section, and read them carefully.

Investigating Ingredients

Products may contain single or multiple ingredients. Some common ingredients found in these products may include:

  • Dextromethorphan: A cough suppressant that works by decreasing activity in the brain that causes coughing
  • Guaifenesin: A cough expectorant that works by thinning mucus, making it easier to clear from airways
  • Phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine: These are ingredients that help to decongest nasal and sinus passages. Since nasal and sinus congestion are not typical symptoms associated with coronavirus disease, your physician may advise you to avoid these ingredients and look for single-ingredient products instead.
  • Acetaminophen: Relieves pain and fever. Taking acetaminophen is safe as long as recommended dosage is followed. Acetaminophen may cause issues if taken at dosages > 4 grams/day.

Over-the-counter cough and cold products may also contain codeine, which is an opioid. The FDA has advised that children younger than age 18 should not use any medicines containing codeine.

Don’t Fall for Scams

Unfortunately, some companies are selling fraudulent products such as teas, essential oils, tinctures and colloidal silver, which claim to prevent, treat, diagnose, cure or alleviate coronavirus symptoms.

The FDA is actively monitoring and issuing warning letters, seizures and injunctions against firms and individuals who make false claims. If a product gives you pause, you can see which have received warning letters so far here.

Keep these tips from the FDA in mind to help keep yourself safe from false or misleading claims on products:

  • Be suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases
  • Few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly. Be wary of any therapy that claims to be a quick fix
  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is
  • Miracle cures that make claims about a scientific breakthrough or contain secret ingredients are likely a hoax
  • Only a health care professional can test you for COVID-19 using an approved test
  • Personal testimonials are no substitute for scientific evidence

If you suspect something is fraudulent, help keep others safe by reporting it to the Office of Criminal Investigations or the FDA’s Health Fraud Program.

Keep Tabs on Your Symptoms

Remember, most people with coronavirus can recover at home. If your symptoms become severe, call your physician or 911. Be sure to let the dispatcher know you have coronavirus so that emergency responders can protect themselves.

These symptoms of COVID-19 are considered severe:

  • Bluish face or lips
  • Inability to arouse or new confusion
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Trouble breathing

The Virtual Doctor Is In

If you are looking for ways to treat a cough due to COVID-19 at home using over-the-counter medications, contact your health care team at AdventHealth.

From video visits to medical record access, we’ve made it easy to reach out to us through our AdventHealth App. You can easily message your care team, request prescription refills, access your medical records and be seen by an online physician through a video visit — all from the comfort of your own home.

A Source You Can Trust

Find more answers to your FAQs and visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub for the latest updates and guidance from leading health authorities on COVID-19 care.

Recent Blogs

A group of teenage boys playing videogames.
Helping Your Child Navigate Unhealthy Relationships
A woman on a beach wearing sunscreen on her nose and touching her nose with her index finger.
How Much SPF is Enough for Me?
Your Essential Guide to Cancer Screenings by Age
Applying sunscreen to child
Sunscreen: Most Frequently Missed Areas
What Heart Conditions Are Hereditary?
View More Articles