COVID-19: What is the treatment and how long is the recovery?

Patient under observation

How is COVID-19 treated?

At present, there is no specific treatment for COVID-19 disease. However, most patients who are infected by COVID-19 with mild-to-moderate symptoms can fully recover at home. Home treatment generally involves medications for fever, cough, chills, and body pain, keeping well hydrated with fluids, and getting ample rest. During this time, you need to follow up with your doctor regularly through phone calls and inform about your recovery process. However, if you are experiencing severe symptoms like chronic diarrhea or abdominal pain, shortness of breath, a bluish tinge on the lips or face, chest pains or pressure, then you need to inform your doctor immediately. You may need to be admitted to a hospital for treatment.

In the absence of specific treatment protocols, scientists are conducting intensive research on finding out drugs and vaccines for treatment. Meanwhile, several precautionary measures, antiviral drugs, and therapies for treatment can accelerate the recovery process both at home and at the hospital. Let us have a look at some of these treatments and the recovery process.

Treatment for COVID-19

Doctors’ advice home treatment for patients with mild symptoms. There are few measures you can take at home such as:

COVID-19 patient receiving care
  • Take plenty of rest at home. This will speed up the recovery process
  • Like any other illness, the coronavirus disease can make you feel dehydrated and this can result in fatigue and tiredness. Drink plenty of fluids, hot soups, water and stay well hydrated at home. If you are still feeling dehydrated, contact your doctor immediately
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Do not go out. Stop spreading the disease to your family members and neighbors. Stay at home. Use a separate bedroom and a bathroom. Use separate sheets, clothes, dishes, towels, other utensils, and avoid close contact with family members
  • Always wear a mask at home and ask your family members to do the same when they are near you
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Ask your family members to clean the doorknobs, tabletops, and other furniture surfaces with a disinfectant regularly to avoid the spread of the disease to other family members
  • Always cover your mouth with your elbow while sneezing or coughing. If you are using tissue papers, throw them into a separate dustbin after the use and cover the lid
  • Monitor your body temperature regularly. Inform your doctor and keep a close watch on your health
  • Ask your healthcare provider for over-the-counter medications that can relieve the symptoms

Safety protocols for family members

  • Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions
  • Caregivers of infected patients must wear disposable gloves while washing laundry, handling soiled garments, or cleaning utensils. Throw the disposable gloves into a dustbin immediately after use
  • Try to stay away from the patient. Keep the door locked and ask other family members to stay away from the patient’s room
  • Monitor your health closely and see if you are developing any symptoms of the disease
  • Do not disturb the patient. Keep your television volume low and give them time to rest
  • Monitor the patient’s health closely and inform the healthcare provider about the progress
  • Always wear a facemask when you are near the patient
  • Keep the windows open and allow ample fresh air inside
  • Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face, nose, mouth,  and eyes
  • Do not share your personal belongings with the patient
  • Clean all the surfaces and doorknobs of the house with a disinfectant
  • In case of an emergency, call the hospital immediately
  • Keep children, elderly people, and pets away from the infected person
  • Avoid going to work during this time

What is Convalescent Plasma therapy for COVID-19 patients?

The FDA has approved the convalescent plasma therapy for treating COVID-19 patients. Convalescent plasma is blood plasma collected from recovered patients. Blood plasma thus collected has been used for the treatment of several diseases like polio and chickenpox.

monitoring COVID-19 patient

The blood of the coronavirus patients develops antibodies that can fight the disease. The convalescent therapy involves collecting blood of the COVID-19 patients who have recovered from the disease. The plasma that is rich in antibodies is then transfused into infected patients who may develop antibodies to fight the disease. This can be extremely helpful in treating severe patients. COVID-19 patients who have recovered from the disease donate the blood to treat other patients. Recent research has shown that convalescent therapy can reduce the risk of death in COVID-19 patients. Any delay in starting convalescent plasma therapy may reduce the success rates of recovery in patients.

However, only patients that have completely recovered from COVID-19 disease in the past and have not developed any symptoms for 14 days can donate their blood plasma. Before blood plasma transfusion, it is crucial to match blood types. Patients are also tested for the presence of other autoimmune diseases, like HIV, before donation.

Medications for COVID-19                 

There is no particular medicine for treating COVID-19. However, doctors use some over-the-counter Paracetamol drugs such as:

  • Acetaminophen for relieving the symptoms of fever and body ache. The dose must not exceed 3000 milligrams on any given day
  • Ibuprofen
  • Tylenol
  • Dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory drug is used for treating critical patients in hospitals. Some patients may develop a hyperactive immune system during the infection that can affect the lungs, other organs and may cause death. Dexamethasone can slow the process of the body’s defense mechanism, reduce inflammation, and lower the risk of death
  • Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine – There is a lot of controversy regarding the effectiveness of these two drugs in the treatment of coronavirus patients. However, Doctors are using both chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients. In some cases, the use of these two drugs in combination has shown a positive response. Scientific research has shown that a combination of these two drugs can kill the virus and prevent the virus to attach itself to the cells in the body. This prevents the multiplication of virus cells. Another drug azithromycin with anti-inflammatory features is being used along with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for treatment. However, there is no clear verdict that the drug is effective for treatment
  • Remdesivir, an antiviral drug is in use to treat COVID-19 patients
  • Vitamin D – people with low levels of vitamin D are more prone to respiratory problems and infections. Vitamin D can boost our body’s immune system and help us fight the virus and reduce inflammation. Foods rich in vitamin D like dairy products, cheese, fatty fish, egg yolks, and a little bit of sunshine can help us fight the disease

A word of caution: Patients must not resort to self-medicating any drug or the drugs mentioned in the above list. A prescription of drugs for COVID-19 from an authorized medical practitioner is necessary for commencement of treatment of coronavirus.

COVID-19 treatment in a hospital

If you have developed serious symptoms, your doctor may admit you to a hospital.  The sequence of steps for the commencement of care is as follows:

child receiving medical care
  • A nurse will do a COVID-19 test through a nasal or throat swab test or collect a blood sample
  • A CT scan or chest x-ray may be required
  • If you have serious trouble breathing, you will be put on a ventilator. Thin tubes will be inserted inside your nostrils attached to the ventilator machine
  • Your nurse will regularly check your oxygen level
  • You will be given fluids through an IV or a tube to keep you hydrated
  • Drugs like ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) or ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) will be given to prevent clotting of the blood

Recovery path for COVID-19

If you are in home quarantine due to COVID-19, you must follow all the guidelines as outlined by your healthcare provider regarding home isolation. Also, contact your local healthcare department and learn about their safety protocols regarding the start and end period of home isolation. For immunocompromised patients, the recovery may take a longer time

  • You must stay home for at least 10 days after the infection.  You are clear if you have not had fever in the last 24 hours or exhibit any symptoms of the disease. You should also not be on any Paracetamol or fever-reducing medication during this time. Essentially, you should have completely recovered from the disease. Further, the COVID-19 test must also come out negative
  • Asymptomatic patients should stay home for at least 10 days until the test comes out negative
  • Some patients can return to normal life within a week, while others may take longer depending on their health conditions
  • Eat healthy food. Drink lots of water and fluids
  • Do light exercises
  • To recover from the stress due to the infection, you need to take ample rest at home. Keep yourself entertained by listening to music or watching movies. Spend quality time with your family
  • Patients who have undergone prolonged care due to the severity of COVID-19 may develop long-term side effects, especially in the lungs. Such patients need to consult their doctors for supportive care to improve their health

What is the estimated recovery time for patients with coronavirus disease?

Patients with mild symptoms can recover within 14 days from the day of infection. Those with severe symptoms may take 3 to 6 weeks or even longer depending on their health condition. Patients with underlying heart diseases or other health problems can take a long time to completely recover from the disease.

 

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