Here's how to relieve mild or moderate COVID-19 symptoms, with the help of over-the-counter medications, non-drug strategies, monoclonal antibody or antiviral therapy.

If you come down with mild or moderate COVID-19, you probably know that you need to stay home to avoid infecting other people. But you may not know all the things you can do to feel less awful while your immune system battles the virus.

Over-the-counter drugs and nondrug interventions can help you cope with COVID-19 symptoms, which are typically some mix of fever or chills, cough, shortness of hearth, headache, fatigue, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, muscle or body aches, diarrhea, nausea, or other issues.

If you are at high risk of becoming extremely sick or even dying from COVID-19 — because you are elderly or obese, for example, or because you have a medical condition like diabetes — you may be eligible for new experimental therapies authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unfortunately these treatments, which include antiviral pills and monoclonal antibody infusions, are currently in short supply.

The first thing you should do if you think you have COVID-19: Call your doctor. Even if you think your symptoms are not severe enough to bother a healthcare provider about in the middle of a pandemic, it’s still important to reach out.

“We don’t want people to suffer in silence, at home and possibly alone,” says Paul Pottinger, MD, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. “Whether it’s in person or online, if you’re sick and suspect you have COVID-19, you should talk to your doctor, and together you can decide if you need to be tested or [admitted to a hospital] for COVID-19.”

Read on to learn about what happens during a medical appointment, how to cope with symptoms using a variety of strategies, and whether you might be a candidate for one of the new investigational interventions.

Note: The following are signs and symptoms of severe COVID-19 that should prompt you to seek immediate emergency care, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in your chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake up or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored lips, skin, or nail beds (depending on skin tone)

Doctors generally do the following during a COVID-19 evaluation:

Check your vital signs. In addition to measuring your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature, physicians will assess your respiratory rate, which is how many breaths you take per minute. In a healthy person that would be around 12 to 16, according to Jonhs Hopkins medicine. A respiratory rate of 23 or greater is a red flag, Per UW Medicine

Doctors may also evaluate how well your lungs are working by using a pulse oximeter. This device clips on a body part such as a finger or ear lobe to measure oxygen saturation (oxygen level) in the blood, according to Jonhs Hopkins medicine.

Ask about your medical history. To determine your risk of becoming extremely ill, your doctor will ask your age. “That’s because people over the age of 65 tend to have a more severe course of COVID-19 and have a relatively higher risk of dying as a result of the infection,” Pottinger explains. 

A physician will also ask about any underlying medical conditions you have as well as your health history. “For example, is your immune system normal, or is it reduced in some way due to a disease process or treatment of a condition that you have?” says Pottinger.


According to the CDC, the following conditions raise your risk of developing severe COVID-19:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic lung diseases, including COPD (chornic obstructive pulmorary disease), asthma (moderate to severe), interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, and  Pulmorary hypertention
  • Tuberculosis
  • Dementia or other neurological conditions
  • Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
  • Down syndrome
  • Hearts condition (such as heart fairlure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, or hypertention)
  • HIV infection
  • Immunocompromised state, including a weakened immune system caused by prolonged use of corticosteroids or other immune-weakening medicines (Note: Some individuals with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis who take medications that suppress their immune systems may be at heightened risk of severe COVID-19.)
  • liver disease
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
  • Smoking, currently or in the past
  • Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
  • Stroke or cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood flow to the brain
  • Mental health conditions including depression, mood disorders, and Schizophreniaspectrum disorders
  • Substance use disorders

Conduct a physical examination. Your doctor will listen to your heartbeat and breathing, and ask about your symptoms, including how intense they are and when they started. There is a broad spectrum of symptoms due to COVID-19 — everything from  new loss of taste or smell to a rask know as "COVID toes" — so you should keep track and tell your doctor about all of them, even if you aren’t sure they are related to COVID-19.

Your doctor will use their clinical judgment, in conjunction with lab work, to determine if you need to be admitted to the hospital. “It’s hard to describe, but it’s part of the practice of medicine being able to identify a patient who is just not going to thrive when they go home,” says Pottinger. 

Source: By Becky Upham Medical Review by Laura J Martin, MD