How to Recover From COVID-19 at Home | Everyday Health

Drug-Free Strategies for Feeling Better When You Have Mild or Moderate COVID-19

Here are a few simple physician-recommended ways to cope with COVID-19 symptoms.

Natural Remedies for COVID-19 Symptoms

The following strategies can be part of an overall treatment plan.

  • Difficulty breathing If you are having symptoms of mild or moderate dyspnea (difficulty breathing), schedule an appointment with your doctor. They may recommend that you lie prone, or facedown, rather than flat on your back.
  • Shortness of breath If being short of breath makes you anxious, your doctor may advise breathing exercises that can help. UC San Diego Health created a video that details how to perform a simple breathing technique to help with COVID-19-related stress.
  • Cough For help managing a cough, try cough drops, Vicks VapoRub, and hot water or hot tea with lemon.
  • Dehydration To reduce the risk of dehydration, drink fluids regularly and keep eating. Aim for at least 64 ounces (8 cups or about 2 liters) of water every day. If you are sweating a lot from a fever, you may want to supplement water with an electrolyte-containing sports drink, such as Gatorade, according to Geisinger Health System.
  • Eating issues To make eating easier, opt for foods that are easy to digest and relatively bland, such as chicken noodle or vegetable broth soup, avocados, or toast. While loss of taste and smell can make food unappetizing, good nutrition will aid your recovery.

RELATED: 11 Foods and Drinks to Help Soothe COVID-19 Symptoms

A study published in July 2021 in Food Science & Nutrition found that for people with mild or moderate infections, strategies like staying physically active, sleeping seven hours per day or more, drinking 2 liters or more of water per day, and consuming more plant-based proteins “can provide a significant role in early and safe recovery from COVID-19.”

Over-the-Counter Medications for COVID-19

University of Chicago Medicine says some over-the-counter medications may improve symptoms of COVID-19.

  • Fever, body aches, or headache Try acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen (Aleve), or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) — assuming you don’t have any preexisting conditions or allergies that would make these drugs risky for you.
  • Congestion If you are very congested, short-term use of a nasal decongestant, such as a nasal spray, may help unblock your nose and open your sinuses, says Pottinger.

Antiviral Pills

The FDA has granted emergency-use authorization for two prescription antiviral treatments administered orally as pills: Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets) by Pfizer and Lagevrio (molnupiravir) by Merck. These treatments work differently but are both used outside of a hospital setting and in individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are at high risk for COVID-19 complications.


Paxlovid can be used to treat mild or moderate COVID-19 in adults and children ages 12 and older who weigh at least 88 pounds, have tested positive for COVID-19, and are at risk of severe illness or death from the disease, according to the FDA.

Patients take the three-pill therapy (two tablets of nirmatrelvir and one tablet of ritonavir) twice a day for five days, for a total of 30 pills. Treatment must begin within five days of the onset of symptoms.

Nirmatrelvir helps prevent the novel coronavirus from replicating, while ritonavir slows the breakdown of nirmatrelvir to extend its presence and maintain its concentration in the body.

Paxlovid costs $530 per course, as Reuters reported on December 22.

Paxlovid may not be a good fit for people with uncontrolled or undiagnosed HIV, as well as those with severe liver or kidney disease. Paxlovid also may interfere with various medications, which the FDA lists on its website.

Side effects include the following, according to the FDA:

  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle aches
  • Gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea
  • Loss of taste


Molnupiravir, which according to a December 23 article in The New York Times costs $700 per course, is authorized for use only in adults who test positive for COVID-19 and are at risk of complications or death from the disease, notes the FDA.

The four-pill therapy is taken twice a day for five days, for a total of 40 pills, and works by causing a fatal genetic mutation in the coronavirus, according to an article published October 9, 2021, in Nature.

Like Paxlovid, molnupiravir should be taken within five days of COVID-19 symptom onset.

The FDA recommends the drug only when Paxlovid and remdesivir (see below) are not accessible or “clinically appropriate.”

The agency advises pregnant women to avoid molnupiravir because some animal studies have found the drug may cause birth defects.

Side effects of molnupiravir may include the following, per the FDA:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea

Be sure to talk to your doctor about any health conditions you have and any medications you’re taking if you’re prescribed Paxlovid or molnupiravir.


Remdesivir (Veklury), the antiviral infusion medication that doctors have used to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients since early in the pandemic, is now an option for people recovering from COVID-19 at home.

In 2022, the FDA expanded eligibility for remdesivir to adults, children, and babies with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of severe illness.

Healthcare providers administer remdesivir with an IV in sessions that take place over three consecutive days, requiring patients to make repeat visits to a hospital or outpatient clinic.

Talk to your primary medical team about whether you are an appropriate candidate for remdesivir, and whether the benefits outweigh the risks given your health status.

A course of remdesivir for a nonhospitalized adult has an out-of-pocket cost of $2,800, according to a January 21 New York Times article. Insurance coverage may reduce this price.

Monoclonal Antibody Treatment

Monoclonal antibodies are molecules produced in a lab that mimic those naturally made by the body’s immune system to fight invading pathogens such as viruses.

Monoclonal antibody drugs for mild or moderate COVID-19 are generally administered by IV (intravenous infusion) at an outpatient infusion center (generally at a hospital or other medical center). The whole treatment process takes about two to three hours, with the IV delivery of the drug taking about an hour.

An infusion of monoclonal antibodies gives the immune system a boost, says Pottinger, reducing the risk that someone will need to be hospitalized, and in some studies, lowering the odds of dying. “Unfortunately, the magnitude of that benefit is much smaller than we’d like it to be — it’s not a miracle cure,” Pottinger says.

The rise of the omicron coronavirus variant, which displaced the delta variant at the end of 2021 to become the predominant type in the United States, has reduced the number of monoclonal antibody options. The FDA now limits the use of two major monoclonal antibody treatments that the agency says are highly unlikely to be effective against omicron: REGEN-COV (the combination of casirivimab and imdevimab) from Regeneron and the combination of bamlanivimab and etesevimab from Eli Lilly.

The agency has also removed its emergency-use authorization for sotrovimab (Xevudy), which data shows is unlikely to be effective against the omicron BA.2 subvariant.

Currently only one monoclonal antibody treatment is available in the United States: Eli Lilly’s bebtelovimab.

Who Is Eligible to Receive Monoclonal Antibody Treatment

The FDA authorized bebtelovimab in February 2022 to treat mild or moderate COVID-19 in adults and children 12 and over (and weighing at least 40 kilograms, or about 88 pounds) who have tested positive for COVID-19 with symptoms for seven days or less, who are at high risk of progression to severe COVID-19, hospitalization, or both.

People at high risk include those who are 65 and older as well as those with the underlying medical conditions detailed above.

Importantly, doctors should only prescribe bebtelovimab to patients who are not candidates for Paxlovid or remdesivir.

In addition to meeting these criteria, you’ll also need a referral from your healthcare provider, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

If you have symptoms but no healthcare provider, phone the government-run Combat COVID Monoclonal Antibodies Call Center at 877-332-6585.

Where to Get Monoclonal Antibody Treatment

To find an infusion center near you, ask your healthcare provider or visit the HHS distribution website.

Insurance Coverage of Monoclonal Antibody Treatment

The federal government has purchased a supply of monoclonal antibody treatments and has made them available at no cost to patients for the antibody product itself, according to the HHS.

But because the treatment needs to be delivered via infusion, there may be an administrative charge, and that fee will vary according to both your provider and your insurance coverage. Medicare will cover that cost, while Medicaid coverage varies from state to state, according to HHS. If you have private insurance, contact your insurance provider to find out what it will cover.

Uninsured people should ask the treatment facility about charges.

Debunked or Unproven COVID-19 Treatments: Hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin

Social media continues to spread unsupported or unhelpful claims about COVID-19 treatments, most prominently about hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. “There is no evidence to support their use; there is actually quite a bit of evidence to show that they don’t help,” Pottinger says.

Hydroxychloroquine The most recent review of the existing evidence finds not only the lack of a significant benefit but also some suggestion of harm, particularly in older patients with existing heart disease or risk factors, according to the authors of a commentary published in August 2021 in the American Journal of Medicine.

Ivermectin This drug is commonly used to treat or prevent parasites in animals, and ivermectin tablets are approved at specific doses to treat some parasitic worms in humans. A clinical trial concluded that ivermectin does not prevent mild or moderate COVID-19 from becoming severe; research published in March 2022 found that treatment with ivermectin didn’t keep people with COVID-19 out of the hospital.

Taking large doses of ivermectin is dangerous, as is using medications intended for animals. Animal ivermectin products are very different from those approved for humans, per the CDC.

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