From eating healthily to staying warm, how to treat Covid-19 in the home

Most people with coronavirus will have mild symptoms that can be treated at home

The treatment of the majority of people who catch the coronavirus is similar to that of most common viral illnesses such as the flu and the common cold. Photograph: iStock

The treatment and self-care of the majority of people who catch this new coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, is similar to that of most common viral illnesses such as the flu and the common cold.

"It's important for people to remember that 80 per cent of people will have mild symptoms and we already have four other coronaviruses in Ireland every winter – one of which is the common cold," explains Dr Nuala O'Connor, lead adviser on Covid-19 at the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP).

Dr Nuala O’Connor, lead adviser on Covid-19 at the Irish College of General Practitioners. Photograph: David Coleman

She says that those who test positive for Covid-19 and whose symptoms are mild enough to stay at home will be given specific advice from public health doctors as well as their local GP. “It is our own bodies’ immune systems that fight this virus. So, the advice is to stay at home and rest and take plenty of fluids,” says Dr O’Connor.

Eat little and often

Those who are suffering from Covid-19 might not feel like eating, but it’s good to “eat little and often”. Dr O’Connor says that paracetamol is recommended to treat fever (a temperature of 38 degrees or higher) and aches and pains while a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen can be added in to control the fever, only on the instructions of a pharmacist or GP. Antibiotics do not work against coronavirus or any viruses. They only work against bacterial infections.


“Most people will cope with the cough by taking honey and lemon and they can talk to their pharmacist or GP about other codeine-based preparations if their cough becomes more troublesome,” explains Dr O’Connor.

The things you should do include:

– Immediately self-isolate.

– Get lots of rest and sleep.

– Drink water regularly.

– Eat healthily – little and often if you can.

– Do not smoke.

– Stay warm.

– Monitor your symptoms.

However, if someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 begins to experience shortness of breath, he/she should contact their GP without delay as this can be an early warning sign of more complicated symptoms.

Dr O’Connor says that the majority of people who contract the Covid-19 virus will recover within 14 days from the onset of symptoms.

During the course of their illness, it is, of course, essential for people to self-isolate and observe all the advice from the HSE about not sharing anything (cutlery, plates, glasses, cups, towels, etc) with other family members to prevent the spread of the virus within the family – and more importantly to prevent the spread of the virus to older family members or those with chronic health conditions.

Well-ventilated bedroom

“We advise people who are sick with Covid-19 in their own homes to stay in a well-ventilated bedroom, preferably with an en-suite bathroom that no one else uses. They should keep their food separate to other members of the family and not share any utensils,” says Dr O’Connor. While those well enough can go out in the garden for fresh air, they should stay at least one metre from other occupants of the house and have no visitors while they are sick. The room in which the sick person is staying should also be cleaned every day with a household cleaner or disinfectant to prevent the spread of the virus.

Dr O’Connor reminds the public that Covid-19 isn’t transmissible from skin to skin. You can contract the virus only when droplets from an infected person’s coughing or sneezing touches your hand (or you touch a surface where the droplets are still alive) and then you then touch your face, allowing the virus to enter through mucous membranes in your eyes, nose or mouth.

There is currently no vaccine to treat or protect against coronavirus. The flu vaccine does not protect against coronavirus.

For more on self-isolation, see the HSE's guide.