Ask Your Pharmacist
Do you have advice on treatment options for mild cases of COVID-19?
The cornerstone of COVID-19 treatment is to lessen the chance of severe infection by getting at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. There is no cure for COVID-19 and no medication therapy for mild disease. Treatment is based on alleviating symptoms and supporting your body until it has fought the infection and you have regained your energy level.
The symptoms of mild COVID-19 are often difficult to distinguish from the common cold. Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever about 38 Celsius, a new cough, worsening chronic cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, new onset of fatigue, new onset of muscle pain, loss of sense of taste, loss of sense of smell, and in children purple markings on the fingers and toes.
A COVID-19 self-assessment tool is available online at www2.gnb.ca. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you can call your primary care physician or nurse practitioner for advice. Follow the advice of public health regarding testing and isolation to protect yourself, your loved ones, and members of your community from infection.
It is important to get plenty of rest and keep hydrated, ideally with water or electrolyte containing solutions (avoid drinks that contain too much sugar). Before you take any over-the-counter medications to treat symptoms of COVID-19, talk to your pharmacist to ensure these medications do not interact with other prescription medications you are already taking.
Your pharmacist is available by telephone to provide advice and consultation regarding medication therapy to provide relief from some of the bothersome symptoms related to COVID-19. Do not come to the pharmacy in person if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Most pharmacies have home delivery for safe drop off of any medications recommended by your pharmacist.
Acetaminophen is effective at treating fever, headache, and sore throat associated with COVID-19. The maximum adult daily dose is 4000 mg which is usually divided four times daily (i.e., acetaminophen 500 mg to 1000 mg four times daily). Your pharmacist can provide specific dosage recommendations based on your situation. Acetaminophen is available in liquid and suppository form for children who are unable to swallow the tablet. Cold compresses applied every 15 minutes to the forehead can provide symptom relief.
There has been a lot of controversy around whether ibuprofen use may worsen outcomes in patients with COVID- 19. Because acetaminophen has a proven safe track record, it is the preferred treatment of fever in this situation. If it is not possible to keep fever down with regularly scheduled acetaminophen, talk to your pharmacist about staggering acetaminophen dosages with ibuprofen.
Antihistamines including desloratidine, loratidine, and cetirizine may be effective at relieving the symptom of runny nose. Certain prescription medications interact with antihistamines and they should not be taken without consultation with your pharmacist. Antihistamines are generally considered safe for use in children.
A bothersome cough often accompanies COVID-19. The best natural expectorant to break up a wet cough from phlegm is to drink plenty of water. Guaifenesin is an over-the-counter expectorant that is safe to use in adults and children with COVID-19. It will help take the tickle away by lubricating the throat, and it will help break up phlegm. It is important to do lots of deep breathing and coughing up phlegm to avoid a lower respiratory bacterial infection (secondary to COVID 19) from settling in. For this reason, try to avoid using cough suppressants like dextromethorphan to suppress a wet cough. If a cough is so bothersome that you are unable to sleep at night, it is reasonable to use an occasional bedtime dose.
If you are currently taking medications to treat a chronic medical condition (i.e., chronic kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, asthma etc.) and you get infected with COVID-19, your pharmacist will help you monitor your medication therapy and make adjustments in dosages if needed. In some instances, your medications may need to be held for a period of time, or used more frequently. An example of this may include a sick day management plan for a patient on insulin for diabetes who is unable to eat because of their COVID-19 infection. Another example may include increasing the use of your rescue inhaler if you are a patient with asthma who develops COVID-19. Do not hesitate to call your pharmacy with questions about your medication therapy during a COVID-19 illness.
Do not attempt to self-treat this infection without the guidance of a health professional. Even if you have been diagnosed with mild disease, it is important to seek medical attention if you feel short of breath at any point during the course of illness. If you feel chest heaviness or chest tightness, seek immediate medical attention. Your pharmacist remains an accessible point of entry to the health care system during COVID-19. Please continue to call us with medication-related questions about the treatment of COVID-19 and your other medical conditions.
Dr Kevin Duplisea is a pharmacist at Sharp’s Corner Drugstore in Sussex, New Brunswick. His opinions expressed in this newspaper are published for educational and informational /purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Send your questions to AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.
Sussex pharmacist Kevin Duplisea dispenses information and advice on a wide range of pharmacy questions in a regular column published in several newspapers.
If you have a question you’d like to see answered in his column, you can send it to him at AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.