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About 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild and do not require hospitalisation according to the World Health Organisation. Mild COVID-19 symptoms show up in the form of fatigue, fever, malaise, cough (dry or with sputum), muscle pain, difficulty breathing, nasal congestion, headache and anorexia.

Proper treatment should always be the first line of defence even in the case of mild COVID-19, so that the disease does not exacerbate or cause complications. 

However, in case of mild infections, along with the treatment, you can also use some simple home remedies to manage the symptoms.

Since COVID-19 is a new disease, always check in with your doctor before using any remedy. 

Read more: Severe vs mild COVID-19

  1. Home remedies for COVID-19
  2. Some things to consider
  3. Doctors for Home remedies for COVID-19

The most important thing to do even if you are detected with mild COVID-19 is to maintain physical distancing. This would keep the disease from spreading. Also, make sure to follow your doctor’s advice and do not forget to take your medicines. Proper treatment is the only way to get cured of this disease.

Read more: Is hydroxychloroquine really effective against COVID-19

Along with the treatment, you can try these additional remedies at home (after asking your doctor), to help manage the symptoms of mild COVID-19.

Steam inhalation

Steam inhalation is one of the time tested remedies for congestion. It is said to help in loosening mucous that can then be coughed out. 

A pilot study done on 26 patients with severe acute lower respiratory tract infections showed that steam inhalation may be beneficial in improving the symptoms of these conditions.

Out of all patients, 16 had bronchiolitis (lung infection that causes inflammation in the bronchioles) and 20 had pneumonia. All the patients were given either steam therapy in a cloth tent or kept as controls. Though the severity of pneumonia was not reduced, inflammation in the bronchioles was. Bronchioles are tiny air passages in the lungs.

All the patients with bronchiolitis also showed a reduction in hypoxia. 

However, later studies suggest that there isn’t enough evidence in the effect of steam therapy.

Nonetheless, there haven’t been any reported harms of steam therapy. So, if your doctor gives a thumbs up you can try it at home to relieve nasal or chest congestion from COVID-19. Here is how:

What you’ll need:

  • A bowl
  • Water
  • A pan

Procedure:

  • Boil some water in a pan - enough so it releases steam for a while.
  • Pour the boiling water in a bowl and let it cool down a bit if it is for a child. Superheated steam may damage the airways.
  • Now, cover yourself or your head and neck with a thick cloth or a towel so that your nose is towards the rising steam.
  • Make sure that no steam escapes the cloth/towel.
  • Breath in the steam - try to take deep breaths but don’t stress yourself if you can’t.
  • Do it till for a few minutes and repeat 2-3 times a day.

Drink water

Our body is made of 70% water. Water is needed for carrying out several metabolic functions in the body and to flush out excess toxins. Adequate hydration is scientifically proven to be beneficial for both the physical and mental health. Most experts suggest drinking 8-10 glasses of water per day to maintain your fluid balance. 

So, keep yourself hydrated and don’t forget to drink enough water. To improve your water intake, you can also take in juicy fruits, soups or fruit juices. Fruits may also provide you with fibres and nutrients that are needed to maintain optimal health and soups may be soothing, especially if you have a sore throat or fever. Studies show that hot liquids are better than cold liquids in improving airway resistance in the nose and chicken soup works better than cold or hot water if you have upper respiratory tract infections.

Read more: Benefits of drinking water in the morning

Warm baths

Warm baths are said to have the same effect on the body as steam inhalation. Studies show that warm water immersion (around 40 degrees Celsius) causes vasodilation, leading to an increase in oxygen and nutrient supply to tissues. It also promotes the release of toxins from the body.

To get the benefits from warm baths, you can either take hot showers, sauna or spend some time in warm tub baths.

Exercise

According to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, moderate-intensity (and not high-intensity exercises) can improve the symptoms of viral infections of the respiratory tract. These exercises increase the ability of our immune system to fight against the viruses. It also reduces inflammation by changing a Th1 response to Th2 response. Prolonged Th1 is one of the causes of damage to respiratory viral infections. Some moderate intensity exercises include brisk walking, cycling, playing badminton or heavy cleaning like vacuuming and mopping.

Read more: Inflammation and COVID-19

On the plus side, regular exercise helps improve the overall functioning of your mind and body. It also keeps up heart health.

Breathing exercises

The American Lung Association (ALA) suggests breathing exercises to those with chronic lung diseases. As per the ALA, exercises such as pursed-lip breathing and diaphragm breathing help in improving lung capacity, open airways and helps you breathe better. Here is how the two are done:

Pursed lip breathing  

  • Breathe in through your nose.
  • Keeping your lips pursed, breathe out through your mouth for twice as long as the inhalation.

Diaphragm breathing

  • Breathe in through your nose. 
  • Take a deep breath so your belly fills up too. Keep your hands on the belly to notice this.
  • Now, gently breathe out through your mouth. Your exhalation should be 2-3 times longer than your inhalation.  

Alternatively, you can do pranayama to keep up your lung function. Studies show that regular yoga breathing can help prevent respiratory diseases and improve lung function. Pranayama including alternate breathing (anulom vilom), deep breathing, but especially expiratory exercises like bhramari has shown to improve lung function in bronchial asthma - a disease that is characterized by shortness of breath, wheezing and tightness of chest.

Do not overexert yourself, if you can’t do any exercise.

Apart from the abovementioned remedies, here are some important things you should keep in mind if you have mild COVID-19:

  • Take enough rest and sufficient sleep. Let your immune system fight the infection with all the energy it needs.
  • Take a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Take care of your mental health. Try to avoid stress and anxiety.

Read more: Do's and Don'ts of self quarantine

Dr. Arun R

Dr. Arun R

Infectious Disease
5 Years of Experience

Dr. Neha Gupta

Dr. Neha Gupta

Infectious Disease
16 Years of Experience

Dr. Lalit Shishara

Dr. Lalit Shishara

Infectious Disease
8 Years of Experience

Dr. Alok Mishra

Dr. Alok Mishra

Infectious Disease
5 Years of Experience

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References

  1. World Health Organization [Internet]. Geneva (SUI): World Health Organization; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 46
  2. Singh M, Singhi S, Walia BN. Evaluation of steam therapy in acute lower respiratory tract infections: a pilot study. Indian Pediatr. 1990;27(9):945–951. PMID: 2286438.
  3. Akhavani MA, Baker RHJ. Steam inhalation treatment for children. Br J Gen Pract. 2005 Jul 1; 55(516): 557. PMID: 16004753.
  4. Bhootra BL, Kitinya J. Deaths from accidental steam inhalation during traditional therapy. J Clin Forensic Med. 2005;12(4):214–217. PMID: 16054010.
  5. Popkin Barry M., D’Anci Kristen E., Rosenberg Irwin H. Water, Hydration and Health. Nutr Rev. 2010 Aug; 68(8): 439–458. PMID: 20646222.
  6. Saketkhoo K, Januszkiewicz A, Sackner MA. Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance. Chest. 1978;74(4):408–410. PMID: 359266.
  7. An Jiyeon, Lee Insook, Yi Yunjeong. The Thermal Effects of Water Immersion on Health Outcomes: An Integrative Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Apr; 16(7): 1280. PMID: 30974799.
  8. Goto Yasuaki, Hayasaka Shinya, Kurihara Shigeo, Nakamura Yosikazu. Physical and Mental Effects of Bathing: A Randomized Intervention Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018; 2018: 9521086. PMID: 29977318.
  9. Martin Stephen A., Pence Brandt D., Woods Jeffrey A. Exercise and Respiratory Tract Viral Infections. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2009 Oct; 37(4): 157–164. PMID: 19955864.
  10. Harvard T.H. Chan. School of Public Health [internet]: Harvard University; Examples of Moderate and Vigorous Physical Activity
  11. American Lung Association [internet]. Chicago. Illinois. US; Breathing Exercises
  12. karthik P. Shyam, Chandrasekhar M., Ambareesha Kondam, Nikhil C. Effect of Pranayama and Suryanamaskar on Pulmonary Functions in Medical Students. J Clin Diagn Res. 2014 Dec; 8(12): BC04–BC06. PMID: 25653936.
  13. Saxena Tarun, Saxena Manjari. The effect of various breathing exercises (pranayama) in patients with bronchial asthma of mild to moderate severity. Int J Yoga. 2009 Jan-Jun; 2(1): 22–25. PMID: 21234211.
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