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How can I manage my COVID symptoms?

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read
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Symptoms of COVID-19 have changed as the virus has evolved into different strains, and as the population has mostly become vaccinated. Those infected with the current most common strain, Omicron, are more likely to have milder symptoms like a cold or flu.

This is especially true if you are fully vaccinated. You are likely to feel unwell for a few days but usually will be able to fight it off, especially if you are young, fit, and in good health.

That said, no one enjoys the flu or even a cold very much, so let's take you through some simple measures to help you feel better.

I've got a fever

A fever is described as a temperature over 100F. It's worth keeping a thermometer at home, but if you don't have one handy, you might just feel hot and sweaty or have hot-cold chills.

You can bring down your temperature by drinking plenty of cool fluids to avoid dehydration and resting. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen will help reduce your temperature.

I've got a cough

Typically, with COVID, you may have a continuous cough, usually dry, and causing bouts of coughing. It's always worse at night, so try to lie on your side rather than your back.

Fluids can help soothe the throat and stop it from getting dry and irritated, and warm herbal teas can be comforting. A teaspoon of honey may also be effective.

Cough suppressants and soothing lozenges are available from your local pharmacist to offer relief.

I feel breathless

If you feel breathless, it's important to monitor your oxygen saturation (the amount of oxygen in your tissues) with a pulse oximeter. It might be worth buying one of these to have in your medicine cabinet.

Doctors worry when your oxygen saturations fall below 94% consistently. You should urgently speak to your doctor. If it's 92% or below, you should go to the emergency department immediately or call an ambulance.

Breathlessness can naturally bring on a feeling of panic, but this can make things worse. Think about simple measures to help yourself: keep the room slightly cool and let in some fresh outdoor air. Try sitting upright, with good posture, and breathing slowly in through your nose, and out through your mouth, to help control your breathing.

I can't smell or taste anything

Washing your nose and mouth daily has been shown to be promising in preliminary studies to remove microorganisms, like bacteria and viruses. For the mouth, a simple antimicrobial mouthwash will be beneficial, while for the nose, nasal irrigation with saline solution is best.

COVID-19 has been known to attack the olfactory system that sends messages of smell to the brain to interpret. If this symptom persists beyond the initial week or two, try smell retraining techniques, and you could also try zinc and vitamin A supplements. You can see your doctor, who may consider a course of steroid tablets or steroid nasal spray to try to bring your sense of smell back.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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