Unfortunately, there are currently no approved drugs or therapies to treat, cure or prevent COVID-19, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Supportive care relieves symptoms and helps people with coronavirus feel better as they recover.
Supportive Care at Home
Most people who get sick with coronavirus have mild illness and should recover at home in home isolation, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In your home, if a family member is sick with COVID-19, you can help them heal. These are the most important steps for caring for someone at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Monitor your family members for worsening symptoms and emergency signs of serious illness. Seek medical care immediately if any of these occur:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or difficulty waking up
- Bluish color in lips or face
Keep Other Family Members Safe
It’s important to have the person who’s sick stay in their own space while they recover. You can all do your part to prevent the spread of germs to other family members, especially loved ones who have a higher risk of developing severe illness.
To treat coronavirus symptoms, you can:
- Consider offering over-the-counter medications (like fever-reducing medications) may to lessen discomfort
- Ensure the sick person drinks plenty of fluids to stay hydrated
- Make sure they get lots of rest
Stay Home to Keep Everyone Safe
Right now, social distancing is recommended to slow the spread of coronavirus. However, be sure to read the CDC guidelines on when to end home isolation after a family member’s been sick. Following these steps will help prevent most instances of spreading any infection from that family member after they recover, and read about emotional considerations, too.
Supportive Care in the Hospital
People who have a mild case of COVID-19, may at first get worse and progress to more complicated lower respiratory disease in the second week of being sick, according to the CDC. For those who are hospitalized, doctors focus on treating the severe complications of the disease.
Some people admitted to the hospital for coronavirus with pneumonia have needed intensive care for breathing support, according to the CDC. People who need intensive care have typically been older or had underlying conditions that placed them at a higher risk for severe illness.
Doctors use oxygen therapy to help people who are experiencing difficulty breathing. For critically ill patients facing life-threatening respiratory failure and organ failure complications, doctors use mechanical ventilators with airway intubation and advanced organ support measures, says the CDC.
Clinical Trials Testing Potential Treatments
Right now, there’s no approved treatment for COVID-19, but clinical trials are underway in many countries around the world.
This is encouraging news, but it’s important to remember that if these treatments prove to be safe and effective, it could take months before they become widely available.
Clinical Trials With the Drug Remdesivir
For example, in February 2020, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases began a clinical trial of a drug called remdesivir. It has shown promise for treating other types of coronaviruses called Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
The CDC says there are currently four options for obtaining remdesivir for treating hospitalized patients in the U.S. who are seriously ill with COVID-19 and have pneumonia. Three options involve enrolling in clinical trials. The fourth option is an expanded access program provided by the drug manufacturer, Gilead, for individual requests on a compassionate-use basis.
Clinical Trials With Other Drugs
Clinical trials are also underway to determine if chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are safe and effective for treating COVID-19. These drugs are already approved for treating people with malaria and certain inflammatory conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, according to the FDA.
The FDA is working with other government agencies and academic centers that are investigating the use of hydroxychloroquine for people with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19. Their goal is to determine if it can reduce the duration of symptoms and viral shedding, which may help prevent the spread of the disease.
The CDC says that some doctors are treating patients with life-threatening COVID-19 symptoms with hydroxychloroquine and another drug called azithromycin. The combination carries additional risks of irregular heartbeat and complications in people who are taking medications for chronic medical conditions, including kidney failure or liver disease, the CDC advises.
While these trials are promising, don’t take any medications that health experts are studying in clinical trials as potential treatments for alleviating COVID-19 symptoms. Medications that have not been proven safe and effective in clinical trials can result in severe adverse effects.
A Word of Caution About Using Medications at Home
Because there are no approved medications to treat COVID-19, don’t take any medications or antibiotics as a prevention or a cure for coronavirus. Antibiotics do not work against viral infections (this is a common misconception) and should only be used as directed by your physician to treat infections caused by bacteria, the WHO advises.
There is no scientific evidence that alternative remedies, such as herbal therapies and teas can prevent or cure the illness caused by coronavirus. Some may be dangerous to consume, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
We’re Here to Help You and Your Family
If you have questions about which treatments and medications are safe and effective to take at home, contact your physician through a telehealth (also called telemedicine) appointment. You can make a video visit appointment with your doctor through the AdventHealth app on your smartphone or tablet, from the comfort of home.
Visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub for more information and to find answers to your coronavirus FAQs.