Woman wrapped in blanket with tissue on her nose

The coronavirus (COVID-19) sounds scary, and for some people, especially those with underlying conditions, it very well may be. But most people will likely have a mild coronavirus case, especially if you have been vaccinated and received a booster.


Read More: COVID Vaccine


Here are answers to some common questions about how to treat a mild case at home.

If You Are Sick With COVID

First and foremost, STAY HOME! This applies even if you don't have a confirmed case but have coronavirus symptoms. Learn more about getting a coronavirus test in Maryland.

If a test confirms you are COVID-positive, contact your doctor. There are some outpatient treatments that may be available to those at high risk of complications and who have mild to moderate symptoms.

Are There Medicines for COVID?

Medications Authorized to Treat COVID

At one time, treating the symptoms of COVID was the best we could do at home. Now, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized some treatments for mild and moderate COVID-19 in people who have not been hospitalized but are at risk of progression to severe illness due to underlying conditions. These include:

  • Monoclonal antibody therapy (mAb) – This IV infusion of antibody medication can prevent mild and moderate COVID from becoming severe. Some of the medications that were being used for mAb treatment are no longer effective against new COVID variants, which has limited the availability of this mAb treatment. Learn more from Maryland’s monoclonal antibody treatment resources
  • Antiviral pills – In December 2021, the FDA authorized two oral COVID treatments that can be taken at home within the first 5 days of symptom onset: Paxlovid by Pfizer (FDA Patient Fact Sheet) and Merck’s molnupiravir (FDA Patient Fact Sheet). These medications may be in limited supply at the beginning of 2022.

Medications Not Considered Effective Against COVID

Antibiotics are not effective in treating COVID, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, because antibiotics only work against bacteria, not viruses. 

Please don't believe in any products not authorized by the FDA that claim to prevent or treat the coronavirus at home.

  • This includes ivermectin, which the FDA says is not approved to treat COVID and can be dangerous if taken in large doses.
  • Likewise, the National Institutes of Health concluded that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID.

How Can I Prevent Others from Catching It?

Practice social distancing by staying in a room with a dedicated bathroom, if possible, away from other members of your household. If you must share a bathroom, it will have to be cleaned for coronavirus after each use.

Wear a Mask

Do not have any visitors. If you must be around others, both you and the other person (if over age 2) should wear a tight-fitting, multilayer face mask, such as a KN95 or N95.

Improve Ventilation

Additionally, if you are near others, try to improve the ventilation in the room by opening a window or using an air purifier with a HEPA filter. 

Practice Other Safety Precautions

You and others in your household should continue to practice these ways to protect against the coronavirus:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Cough into a tissue that you throw away immediately in a plastic-lined wastebasket.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces every day; some may need it several times a day.
  • Don't share personal items, like dishes, towels or bedding. Make sure your clothing and linens are washed thoroughly.

You should also limit contact with pets while sick. When sick, the CDC recommends keeping your distance from animals until more is known about the virus.

How Can I Treat COVID Symptoms at Home?

The main symptoms of COVID are fever, cough and shortness of breath.

If your symptoms become severe, you should call your doctor or the UMMS Nurse Call Line to see if you need to go to the hospital. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or can't be woken up
  • Lips or face turning blue

If the symptoms are life-threatening, go to the hospital emergency room right away.

To Monitor Your Oxygen Level

A home pulse oximeter, which clips to your finger and measures how much oxygen is in your blood, can help you monitor your condition. This may be recommended by your doctor, especially if you have risk factors for severe illness. Talk to your doctor about how to use it and what oxygen level should prompt a call to the doctor.  

For a Fever and Aches

Take an over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These can be used as a fever reducer or to treat headache, sore throat or body aches. 

Stay hydrated. Fevers usually cause sweating, which means loss of water from your body. Drink lots of fluids (preferably water or juice and not soda or high sugar beverages that might make you thirstier). Caffeinated beverages are not recommended.

Rest. Your body needs energy to fight the virus. Just rest up and let your body do its job.

For a Cough

Sip on drinks throughout the day. Not only will this keep your throat moist and comfortable, it will help keep you hydrated.

Drink warm beverages, like tea or broth. These heat up the airways, keep you hydrated and break up any mucus you might have in your throat and upper airway.

Try a teaspoon of honey in hot tea or hot water. A little bit of honey tends to soothe a sore throat. However, children under 1 year old should not try honey.

Breathe in steam. Use a hot shower, humidifier, vaporizer or other means of making steam. It will soothe a sore throat and open your airways, making it easier to breathe.

Eat a frozen treat. The coldness may help numb the pain and soothe your throat if it is sore from coughing.

Suck on cough drops, lozenges or hard candy. These will keep your mouth and throat moist.

Try cough medicine. If you have a wet cough with lots of mucus, you want to take an expectorant to help get the mucus out. If you have a dry cough, a cough suppressant is what you want. Make sure you choose the right one.

For pain, try acetaminophen. Sometimes a lot of coughing can be painful. A pain reliever can take the edge off.

For Shortness of Breath

Take slow breaths. Slowing things down can help you start breathing again properly.

Try relaxation or meditation techniques. These techniques will help calm the body and get your breathing more regular. Additionally, having shortness of breath may leave you feeling anxious. These relaxation techniques can help fight the anxiety.

If you were previously prescribed an inhaler, you may need to use it. Pay attention to how your chest feels and what symptoms your inhaler was prescribed for. Do not use someone else's inhaler – only use one that is prescribed to you. Make sure you disinfect the mouthpiece after every use.

For a Fever

Take a fever reducer. If you choose to or if your fever is very high, you can take a fever reducer. Acetaminophen is what is usually recommended. While ibuprofen is also a fever reducer, there is some concern that it may not be safe to take with the novel coronavirus. More research needs to be done to know for sure.

Stay hydrated. Fevers usually cause sweating, which means loss of water from your body. Drink lots of fluids (preferably water or juice and not soda or high sugar beverages that might make you thirstier). Caffeinated beverages are not recommended.

Rest. Your body needs energy to fight the virus. Just rest up and let your body do its job.

For a Cough

Sip on drinks throughout the day. Not only will this keep your throat moist and comfortable, it will help keep you hydrated.

Drink warm beverages, like tea or broth. These heat up the airways, keep you hydrated and break up any mucus you might have in your throat and upper airway.

Try a teaspoon of honey in hot tea or hot water. A little bit of honey tends to soothe a sore throat. However, children under 1 year old should not try honey.

Breathe in steam. Use a hot shower, humidifier, vaporizer or other means of making steam. It will soothe a sore throat and open your airways, making it easier to breathe.

Gargle salt water. While it is not scientifically proven to help, many people swear that salt water helps their sore throat. There is no harm in trying, and it might help you. Use 1 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water. Make sure you spit it out and disinfect the sink afterward.

Eat a frozen treat. The coldness may help numb the pain and soothe your throat if it is sore from coughing.

Suck on cough drops, lozenges or hard candy. These will keep your mouth and throat moist.

Try cough medicine. If you have a wet cough with lots of mucus, you want to take an expectorant to help get the mucus out. If you have a dry cough, a cough suppressant is what you want. Make sure you choose the right one.

For pain, try acetaminophen. Sometimes a lot of coughing can be painful. A pain reliever can take the edge off.

For Shortness of Breath

Take slow breaths. Slowing things down can help you start breathing again properly.

Try relaxation or meditation techniques. These will help calm the body and get your breathing more regular. Additionally, having shortness of breath may leave you feeling anxious. These relaxation techniques will help fight the anxiety.

If you were previously prescribed an inhaler, you may need to use it. Pay attention to how your chest feels and what symptoms your inhaler was prescribed for. Do not use someone else's inhaler – only use one that is prescribed to you. Make sure you disinfect the mouthpiece after every use.

Updated 12/28/2021


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