Doctor: What works to help recovery from coronavirus at home

About 18 to 20% of COVID-19 patients become severely ill and are hospitalized, but most who are diagnosed are sent home to recover.

A doctor working for a health system that has now treated around 10,000 novel coronavirus outpatients has perspective on how conditions have evolved.

More recently, symptoms among increasingly younger patients tend to be milder compared with earlier cases to now predominantly include general body aches and loss of sense of taste and smell, said MedStar Health primary care physician Dr. Richard O. Kennedy of Lafayette Centre in D.C.

“If you have body aches, if you have fever, you might take antipyretics [fever reducers] such as Tylenol [acetaminophen], which tends to be a little bit better than ibuprofen, Aleve or Advil,” Kennedy said.

He also said there are supplements known to improve immune function, such as vitamin C and elderberry.

Hydration is also critical. Patients are encouraged to drink as much fluids as possible.

“Stay away from the carbonated beverages — more water than anything else, but you can have juices and soups, things of that nature,” Kennedy said.

COVID-19 can aggravate preexisting conditions, such as blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and asthma.

“Those symptoms can get more severe when you have been infected with COVID,” Kennedy said. “So, the COVID itself may not be causing a problem, but (a patient’s) other symptoms may be a bit more taxing to deal with and control.”

Some of the most common issues and concerns expressed by people recovering at home are depression and anxiety sparked by concern of infecting loved ones.

Self-quarantining among family members includes everyone needing to wear face masks even at home and, if possible, patients not sharing a bathroom, linens, food or utensils with others.

Telemedicine “has been a godsend, indirectly,” Kennedy said of being able to offer people virtual behavioral health resources and medical consultations.

“Even though we’ve been forced to use it, it’s been a godsend because we can take some of the anxiety, the fear and the concerns about COVID and what it’s doing to people out of the way,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy also said most patients recover; between 3% to 5% succumb to the virus.

The body of knowledge related to COVID-19 is growing steadily and changes rapidly, but Kennedy said that solid, reliable data from around the world and locally show how it can be stopped.

“We’ve proven in this area — because the trend is downward, where the number of cases, the number of deaths are all going down — that social distancing, wearing face masks and hand hygiene has worked,” Kennedy said.

Noting increasing numbers of infections in college communities and stating that “this is the most contagious virus the world has ever seen,” Kennedy said following health guidelines is important:

  • Wear a face mask whenever you venture out.
  • Always social distance whenever possible.
  • Try not to be around more than five to six people in any gathering.
  • Wash your hands.

“And, every time you think about it, wash your hands two more times,” Kennedy said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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