If you catch COVID this month, you’re far from alone: On Monday, the United States reported nearly 1.5 million new cases. You’re probably wondering what you can take – or should take – to feel better and recover faster. Does Gatorade’s Soup and Chicken Turn You On? Are some over-the-counter treatments better for COVID than others? What about monoclonal antibodies and antiviral drugs — do you need them, and can you get them? The answers, like the virus, are in flux.
For the latest advice, ETNT Health speak with Robert J. Lahita, MD, Ph.D. (“Dr. Bob”), director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Diseases at St. Joseph Health in New Jersey and author of strong immunity, And Amanda Periello, RD, CDN, Registered Dietitian with Gaylord Healthcare Professional in Connecticut, which provides care for people recovering from severe COVID illness. Read on to find out more – and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these things Sure Signs You Already Have COVID.
Water is key when recovering from any disease. But COVID can complicate that a bit. People who contract the Omicron variant — which now accounts for 98% or more of cases in the United States — usually have a sore throat. “Patients say it can feel like they are swallowing razors,” Lahita says. “But make sure you’re hydrated. We don’t tend to eat or drink when our throats are raw.” It is suggested to drink plenty of water, tea, or other gentle drinks on the throat. Citrus juices, coffee, and hot or very hot liquids can be very painful for some time.
Perillo says water is the best source of hydration, but when you do have a fever, you should also make sure you’re refilling your electrolytes. Drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, or Vitamin Water will work, or you can make your own version of a rehydration drink using water, salt, sugar, and lemon juice to add flavor. (If you have diabetes, beware of sports drinks that contain added sugar; high blood sugar may exacerbate coronavirus attacks.)
Lahita recommends acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) for fever and headache. Aspirin and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can irritate the stomach and may worsen nausea or vomiting associated with COVID. One caveat: Do not drink alcohol when taking acetaminophen. It can cause serious liver damage.
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Even if you don’t have Covid, “a daily aspirin for kids is a must,” says Lahita. This can protect against the possible effects of the delta variable, which is still in circulation. Unlike Omicron, delta can cause micro-clotting in the lungs, which is one of the most common causes of death from this variant, he says. Baby aspirin, which acts as a blood thinner, can prevent this.
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“If you haven’t started, everyone should be taking vitamin C by now,” Lahita says. Vitamin D is a good vitamin that should be taken because it strengthens the immune system.
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You may not feel like eating, but you really need to. “To recover from any injury or illness, including COVID, you need to make sure that you are fueling your body with calories, protein, and complex carbohydrates,” Perillo says. “Protein, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and iron are all effective when it comes to immune health.” Your best bets: Lean meats, seafood, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
If COVID has impaired your taste for food, it is still important to maintain an eating routine. In addition to helping fight off the virus, constantly feeding your body can help restore your appetite, says Periello. During the recovery period, regular small meals and snacks may be more acceptable than larger portions.
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Monoclonal antibodies help rally the immune system to fight the coronavirus. Lahita says treatment is done by IV in hospitals and ERs. (It’s not something your primary care doctor can give you in their office.) Unfortunately, most current monoclonal antibody treatments appear to be less effective against the Omicron variant. Fortunately, Omicron appears to cause less severe disease, making treatment less necessary.
But if you do catch COVID, you probably won’t know which alternative you have. Lahita’s tip: If you have risk factors for severe COVID (such as age or underlying medical conditions), go to the emergency room, where you can be evaluated and monoclonal antibodies can be given if your doctor decides you would benefit.
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Within a few weeks, doctors will be able to prescribe the antiviral drugs baxilvid and molnopiravir, Lahita says. In clinical trials, it was found to significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID when taken in the first three days of symptoms. Medicines are being produced at the moment and are very limited.
So, what should you do today, if you think you may need more than one over-the-counter home care? “The best advice is always to call your doctor,” Lahita says. “Speak to your doctor or physician representative—the advanced practice nurse or coverage physician—and tell them about your symptoms.” They will give you personalized, up-to-date advice on what to do next.
“If your symptoms really get worse, and you have a comorbidity like diabetes or a chronic lung condition, and you think you’re starting to get worse, go to the emergency room,” Lahita says. “If you are short of breath and gasping for air, call 911 and head to the hospital.” There, doctors can give medications such as remdesivir and dexamethasone to reduce inflammation and improve breathing.
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Follow the basics and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live – get vaccinated ASAP; If you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear N95 face mask, do not travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, do not go inside with people you do not shelter (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, do not visit any of these 35 places you’re most likely to get infected with the coronavirus.