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Managing your COVID-19 symptoms

There is currently no cure for COVID-19, but there are things you can do to help ease symptoms. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 

COVID-19 is a disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. It can affect your airways, lungs, and other organs. 

Symptoms include: 

  • sore throat  
  • sneezing and runny nose 
  • a new or worsening cough 
  • a fever 
  • shortness of breath  
  • temporary loss of smell or altered sense of taste. 

Other less common symptoms include: 

  • diarrhoea (runny poo) 
  • headache 
  • muscle pain or body aches 
  • nausea (feeling sick) 
  • vomiting (being sick) 
  • malaise — a general feeling of discomfort, illness or unease 
  • chest pain 
  • abdominal pain 
  • joint pain 
  • confusion and irritability. 
Ways to manage COVID-19 symptoms 

Sore throat 

Suck a teaspoon of honey, gargle with salt water, or gargle with warm water to ease a sore throat. Sucking on sugar-free lollies or lozenges also helps. You can also try throat spray or pain-relief (anaesthetic) lozenges. 

Sneezing or runny nose 

Use saline nose drops or spray to help soothe or clear a stuffy nose. Medicated decongestants may also be helpful but be aware that they are only for short term use. Do not use them for longer than 7 days. 

Some people find using vapour rubs soothing and helps relieve nose and chest congestion. Vapour rubs are ointments that contain essential oils such as menthol, camphor and eucalyptus. They are usually applied to your skin, on your throat, chest or back. Rub gently and leave clothes loose to allow vapours to be inhaled easily.  

Some people find steam inhalation helpful in relieving congestion, but scientific studies have found that it has few proven benefits and risks serious harm from accidents causing  burn injuries. 

Cough  

Simple home remedies can be just as effective as cough medicines at relieving symptoms. Sucking honey or sipping a hot drink may help to ease your cough as it can soothe the back of your throat. If you are unsure, talk to your pharmacist. 

Fever 

Fever is your body’s way of fighting infection and is a common symptom of COVID-19. If you have a high temperature (above 38 degC), it can help if you get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. 

You can also take paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease the fever or to make you feel more comfortable. 

You can also: 

  • make sure the room temperature is comfortable (not too hot or too cold) 
  • open a window for fresh air  
  • wear lightweight clothing and use lighter bedding 
  • use a cool cloth to wash your face, hands and neck 
  • change bed linen and clothing regularly, especially if they are wet from sweat 

It is best to avoid hot water bottles and electric blankets. 

Shortness of breath 

COVID-19 may cause troubles with breathing. Lying on your back can make it harder to breathe. Changing your position regularly (every 30 minutes to 2 hours) helps to move the air through all of your lungs. Try lying on your tummy, both sides, and sitting upright.   

Vomiting or diarrhoea 

Some people with COVID-19 may get diarrhoea (runny poo), feel sick (nausea), or be sick (vomiting). These symptoms should usually settle within a few days.  

The most important thing is to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Diluted apple juice or oral rehydration (electrolyte) solution can be helpful. Avoid fizzy drinks, undiluted juices, tea, coffee and sports drinks because of their high sugar content. High sugar content is likely to make diarrhoea worse. 

If you feel nauseous, eat when you feel able to – you don’t need to eat or avoid eating any specific foods. Some people find eating bland foods such as crackers, rice or dry toast helpful. Some people also find ginger helpful, taken as ginger tea, ginger-containing foods like soups, or ginger capsules.   

If these symptoms are ongoing, talk to your doctor as they may recommend anti-nausea medicines.  

Seeking medical care 

If your symptoms get worse or you need urgent medical care, call your local healthcare provider or Healthline on 0800 358 5453. There are treatments available that your healthcare professional can prescribe to relieve symptoms or reduce your risk of needing hospital care. 

If you or the person with COVID-19 develops difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, fainting or becomes unconscious, call 111 immediately. 

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