Simple steps to help you recover from coronavirus

Dr Juliet McGrattan (MBChB)
Photo credit: Robert Manella - Getty Images

From Netdoctor

Struck down with coronavirus and not sure what to do? Thankfully, for the majority of the population, if they do contract coronavirus (Covid-19) it will be a simple flu-like illness from which they make a full recovery.

While coronavirus is an entirely new disease and there are many unknowns, it is a virus and we have lots of experience in knowing how to recover from viral infections. Currently over 80,000 people globally have recovered from Covid-19. There are plenty of simple things that you can do at home to look after yourself and get back on your feet so you can then help those around you.

If you have contracted coronavirus or are looking after others that do, then here are some simple steps for recovery and a few reminders about when and how to call for help:

Protect others from Covid-19

Even if your illness is mild and you feel able to go about your usual daily business, you must isolate yourself and those you live with. This is to protect others who may be more vulnerable than you and for whom this illness can have severe consequences.

At the time of writing, the Government advice is that anyone with symptoms of coronavirus illness who lives alone, must stay at home for seven days. For those who live with others, then everyone in the household, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not, must not leave the house for fourteen days.

If possible then any household members who are more vulnerable, such as the elderly or those with underlying health conditions, should stay somewhere else or you should keep away from them as much as possible. Restrictive though this is, it is essential to stop the spread of the disease and we all need to act responsibly.

Photo credit: derketta - Getty Images

Protect the NHS during the pandemic

Normally, when you feel really rough you might call your GP or the NHS Helpline for reassurance and a bit of advice. But if everyone does that during this time, then the system will be overloaded and break down completely. The Government advice is not to contact your GP, hospital or pharmacy and not to call NHS 111.

If you are getting worse, can’t manage your symptoms at home or are not getting better after seven days, then you should use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. If you don’t have internet access then call NHS 111. Obviously, for a medical emergency you can dial 999.

How to treat Covid-19 symptoms

There is no specific treatment for coronavirus so it’s a case of managing the symptoms. The two commonest symptoms seem to be a high temperature and a cough; you may feel a little out of breath. Other symptoms include:

Paracetamol or ibuprofen?

Treat coronavirus symptoms in the same way as you would any viral illness. You can use paracetamol to lower your temperature, ease muscle pains and clear headaches.

There has been some uncertainty on social media about whether ibuprofen (and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are suitable to take during coronavirus illness but currently, there is insufficient evidence to prove there is any risk and the NHS is still recommending either paracetamol or ibuprofen for relief of symptoms.

The recommended dose of paracetamol for adults is 1g (two x 500mg tablets) every four to six hours with a maximum dose of 4g (eight tablets) within a 24-hour period. Do NOT take more than the recommended dose. Children’s dosing varies according to their age and weight so please check the product’s packet for instructions.

If you have a troublesome cough, then sip fluids frequently to keep your throat moist. Try hot drinks and cold and see which works best for you. Hot honey and lemon drinks are popular to reduce coughing and cough syrups and throat lozenges may all help to stop your throat drying out and hence make you cough less.

Nourish yourself

It’s really important to give your body what it needs to help it recover. Fluids are essential. It’s easy to become dehydrated through sweating with a fever, losing water through coughing and also through diarrhoea.

Drink whatever kind of fluid you prefer, plain water is fine but if you don’t like it then dilute fruit juices, cordial or herbal teas all count. Drink frequently throughout the day, small amounts often will add up. You may find you lose your appetite, don’t worry too much, drinking is more important.

When you can eat, choose foods that are packed with vitamins and minerals to fuel your body as it recovers. Fresh fruit and vegetables are ideal and smoothies and soups work well if you don’t feel like eating solids. You will soon get your appetite back as you improve.

Get plenty of rest

Viral illnesses can really take it out of you and leave you feeling exhausted. This isn’t a time for ‘ploughing on regardless’, listen to your body and rest and sleep as much as you can. For those who have small children or are caring for others, it can be difficult to get enough rest but just do your best.

Delegate as many jobs as you can, ask others to help, even if you’re isolating at home, there may be friends or neighbours who would cook a meal for you and leave it on your doorstep. Many cafes and restaurants are offering home delivery services so check online for what is available in your local area.

Thankfully for most people, coronavirus will be mild and recovery will only take a week, for others, the symptoms, particularly the tiredness may last longer. Be kind to yourself. Increase your activities gradually and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.

Stay positive

Feeling unwell can have an impact on your mental health and it’s common to feel down. This is particularly true at the moment when the news and social media feeds are full of negative and often frightening stories. This can cause you to become quite low or anxious. Consider just checking in to the news once a day to listen to or read the latest updates. Avoid just scrolling through your social feeds.

Isolating yourself can make you feel very lonely and if you are already struggling with mental health issues then it may be a very difficult time for you. Reach out to friends, family or mental health charities and explain how you are feeling. Distracting yourself will help to lift your spirits.

If you are stuck in bed or on the sofa, then try reading, watching films or calling that friend that always makes you laugh. Try to stay positive, remember you will soon feel better and when you do you will appreciate good health and enjoy life so much more.

⚠️ The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Last updated: 17-03-2020

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