As more people contract the omicron variant of COVID-19 amid a nationwide surge, what kind of over-the-counter medicine can you use to treat mild symptoms?
For most omicron COVID cases, particularly breakthrough infections in those who are boosted and vaccinated, tend to remain mild and produce cold or flu-like symptoms.
Overall, the symptoms for the virus reported by the CDC include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
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Here's how health experts say to treat symptoms:
To treat a fever...
According to Dr. Emily Landon, infectious disease expert from the University of Chicago, Tylenol, Aleve, Advil and Motrin can all be used to help lower a fever, which is a common symptom of the omircon COVID variant.
These medicines should also help treat body aches and lower all-around body inflammation, both of which are symptoms of the coronavirus, Landon said.
"Acetaminophen (Tylenol) doesn’t treat the virus itself, nor does it reduce the duration of your illness," Landon said in an online post. "A lot of people feel pretty miserable from a fever, which means a fever reducer like acetaminophen is definitely an option for some relief."
Landon noted there was early concern that medications like ibuprofen might worsen coronavirus symptoms. However, she said nothing she has seen thus far supports that theory.
To treat a cough or sore throat...
Most over-the-counter medicines have not proven to be effective against a cough or sore throat, according to Landon.
However, she recommends drinking chamomile or herbal tea and hot water with lemon. Throat lozenges and decongestant balms like Vicks VapoRub have also proven effective.
To treat an upset stomach...
For people experiencing diarrhea or stomach issues with their COVID infection, Landon recommends letting the virus run its course and staying hydrated with lots of liquids.
Should a person start to feel dizzy or is unable to keep liquids down, Landon advised to contact a doctor.
To treat congestion or a runny nose...
Some decongestant medicine may help to treat congestion or a runny nose, according to Cleveland Clinic, though decongestant nasal sprays should only be used for a few days.
To treat a runny or stuffy nose, Cleveland Clinic recommended getting rest and drinking plenty of fluids, especially water.
Saline nasal sprays can also help to relieve symptoms, along with a Neti pot or a cool-mist humidifier.
For other at-home remedies, Cleveland Clinic said to try using essential oils, drinking hot teas, taking a facial steam or hot shower and eating spicy foods.
When should you seek emergency medical attention?
According to Mayo Clinic, here are the emergency warning signs associated with COVID, which indicate a person should call 9-1-1 and seek medical assistance immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent chest pain or pressure
- New confusion
- Bluish lips or face
- Inability to stay awake
- Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds — depending on skin tone
Antiviral Pills to Treat COVID
To treat the coronavirus itself, two newly-authorized antiviral pills from Pfizer and Merck will be available in Illinois "in coming weeks," according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The pills, known as Paxlovid and Molnupiravir, will be available by prescription only "for those with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk for becoming severely ill, including hospitalization or death," the department said.
U.S. regulators authorized Pfizer's pill, Paxlovid, and Merck’s molnupiravir last month. In high-risk patients, both were shown to reduce the chances of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, although Pfizer's was much more effective.
IDPH reported Paxlovid is expected to reduce the risk of hospitalizations by 89% and Molnupiravir by about 30%.
The antiviral pills aren’t for everyone who gets a positive test. The pills are intended for those with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are more likely to become seriously ill. That includes older people and those with other health conditions like heart disease, cancer or diabetes that make them more vulnerable.
Both pills were OK'd for adults while Paxlovid is authorized for children ages 12 and older.