January 17, 2022, MORRIS, IL – As record breaking numbers are testing positive for COVID-19, Morris Hospital Infectious Disease physician Dr. John Bolden knows there are steps people can take at home to minimize COVID illness.
“For those who test positive for COVID or begin to experience symptoms, taking the right steps early on may decrease the chances of severe illness,” says Dr. Bolden. “There are several things that can be done at home to try to limit the illness from progressing.”
If you test positive for COVID, Dr. Bolden recommends informing your primary care provider, especially if you have symptoms. This allows the primary care provider to establish a baseline and offer specific guidance based on individual risk factors, symptoms and progression.
While recovering at home – even for people who test positive but don’t have symptoms – Dr. Bolden recommends getting plenty of rest, staying well hydrated, eating small healthy meals with fruits and vegetables, and exercising. For hydration, he recommends approximately 6-8 glasses of water a day in order to loosen any congestion in the nose and lungs. Exercising can be as simple as doing stretches in the home, such as arm stretching and waist bends, and going about a daily routine around the house. Movement and activity can help expand the lungs.
“One of the important factors in recovery from COVID infection is trying to keep your lungs and airways opened up. That’s why it’s important to get up every few hours during the day to stretch, exercise, shower and walk around,” he says. “Staying in bed for long periods of time is not beneficial when trying to recover.”
When it comes to vitamins and supplements, Dr. Bolden says the ones that prove effective for treating COVID are Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and Zinc Sulfate to boost the immune system, along with a daily dose of aspirin to prevent blood clots, if advised by your physician. Another over-the-counter supplement Dr. Bolden suggests is the supplement quercetin, which has many anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that can help with recovery from the virus. Quercetin is found in many plants and foods such as onions, green tea, apples, berries and red wine and is available at vitamin stores.
Your primary care provider can offer specific guidance for appropriate over-the-counter medications to alleviate discomfort from COVID symptoms such as headache, sinus congestion, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea and sore throat. Your provider may also prescribe steroids or an antibiotic, depending on the severity of illness. For high risk patients, providers may give a referral for treatment with the monoclonal antibody infusion, although supply is very limited at this time.
“Monoclonal therapy has shown great evidence that it does help in terms of decreasing the duration and severity of COVID infection, but unfortunately treatments are very limited right now,” he says.
Dr. Bolden also recommends additional measures to keep the lungs and airways clear. He says nebulizers and humidifiers have been proven to decrease severity and inflammation, and a handheld device called an incentive spirometer can help expand and strengthen the lungs. Another recommendation is singing a few songs every couple of hours.
“Singing at home every few hours has been shown to help speed recovery by opening up the airways,” Dr. Bolden says.
Good ventilation in the home is also important. Dr. Bolden suggests opening a window and turning on a fan to increase the airflow and move germs outside the home. Stepping outside for a few minutes each day also gives an opportunity to breathe in fresh air.
“You can make it part of your daily exercise routine to expand your lungs,” Dr. Bolden says.
While two oral antiviral medications are on the horizon that aim to reduce hospitalizations resulting from COVID-19, their availability is still not yet known. Rumors and misinformation continue to circulate about the use of drugs like hydroxchloroquine and ivermectin as COVID-19 treatments, but Dr. Bolden stresses there is insufficient evidence to support their use.
“These medications have not been approved for treatment of COVID,” Dr. Bolden says, “and there’s not enough evidence to show that they’re an effective or safe treatment for COVID.”
While it’s always important to contact your medical provider any time symptoms occur that are severe or concerning, some of the most common emergency warning signs for COVID-19 that require prompt medical attention include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, or a blood oxygen level consistently below 92 percent.
“Medical emergencies always require immediate attention,” he adds.