COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus. The novel coronavirus was discovered after an outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
Since the initial outbreak, the novel coronavirus has spread to most countries around the world. It’s been responsible for tens of millions of infections globally, causing well over 2 million deaths. The United States is the most affected country.
Vaccines are now available to protect against the novel coronavirus. Researchers are also working on creating more potential treatments for COVID-19.
The disease is more likely to cause symptoms in older adults and those with underlying health conditions. Most people who develop symptoms of COVID-19 experience:
Less common symptoms include:
- chills, with or without repeated shaking
- loss of taste or smell
- sore throat
- muscle aches and pains
- a stuffy or runny nose
- diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal symptoms
- discolored fingers or toes
- pink eye
Keep reading to learn more about the current treatment options for COVID-19, what types of treatments are being explored, and what to do if you develop symptoms.
Remdesivir (Veklury) is a broad-spectrum antiviral drug originally designed to target Ebola. Researchers have found that remdesivir is modestly effective at fighting the novel coronavirus in isolated cells.
In October 2020, it became the first drug
This intravenous (IV) infusion therapy is used to treat people 12 years old and older who’ve been hospitalized with the condition. To date, it’s still the only COVID-19 treatment that’s been approved by the FDA.
The FDA has also granted
EUAs allow products that haven’t received FDA approval to be used in circumstances where there are no suitable FDA-approved alternatives.
The COVID-19 medications that have received EUAs are:
- a combination of bamlanivimab and etesevimab (etesevimab must be administered in combination with bamlanivimab)
- casirivimab and imdevimab, which must be administered together
- the oral medication baricitinib (Olumiant), which must be administered with remdesivir
- COVID-19 convalescent plasma
- Fresenius Kabi Propoven 2%, an IV sedative
- Fresenius Medical, multiFiltrate PRO System and multiBic/multiPlus solutions for people who need continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT)
- REGIOCIT replacement solution with citrate for people who need CRRT
Remdesivir has also received an EUA to treat children who are under 12 years old or have a low body weight.
Bamlanivimab, etesevimab, casirivimab, and imdevimab are IV infusion therapies. Unlike remdesivir, they’re administered as outpatient therapy and intended for people who have less severe disease. Their purpose is to help reduce the risk of hospitalization.
The other medications are all intended for people who’ve been hospitalized or are at risk for hospitalization.
A January 2021 study on convalescent plasma looked at effects on adults age 65 and older who’d tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and were symptomatic. Researchers found that the group who’d received convalescent plasma within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms were 48 percent less likely to develop COVID-19 than the group who’d received a placebo.
Convalescent plasma must be administered early into the onset of symptoms to be effective.
In February 2021, the
If your symptoms are more severe, supportive treatments may be given by your doctor or at a hospital. This type of treatment may involve:
- fluids to reduce the risk of dehydration
- medication to reduce a fever
- supplemental oxygen in more severe cases
People who have a hard time breathing due to COVID-19 may need a ventilator.
Note: It’s critical to reserve surgical masks and N95 respirators for healthcare workers.
Vaccines and treatment options for COVID-19 are currently being investigated around the world.
However, none of the experimental medications has proven to be effective thus far concerning preventing illness or treating the symptoms of COVID-19.
Researchers will need to perform more randomized controlled trials in humans before additional effective treatments become available.
Here are some of the treatment options that have been investigated for protection against SARS-CoV-2 and treatment of COVID-19 symptoms.
Chloroquine is a drug that’s used to fight malaria and autoimmune diseases. It’s been in use for more than 70 years and is generally considered safe.
At the beginning of the pandemic,
However, a February 2021 literature review concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to deem it effective. The authors of the review also suggested that researchers end clinical trials examining chloroquine’s role as a COVID-19 treatment.
Lopinavir and ritonavir
Lopinavir and ritonavir are sold under the name Kaletra and are designed to treat HIV.
In early 2020, a 54-year-old South Korean man was given a combination of these two drugs and had a significant reduction in his levels of the coronavirus.
Afterward, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that there may be benefits to using Kaletra in combination with other drugs.
According to a February 2021 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine and conducted by the WHO and its partners, this drug combination has little to no effect on people hospitalized with COVID-19. Taking the medication didn’t definitively decrease mortality rates, ventilation rates, or the duration of their hospital stays.
In February 2020, China approved the use of the antiviral drug favilavir to treat symptoms of COVID-19. The drug was initially developed to treat inflammation in the nose and throat. It’s also commonly known as favipiravir.
The early word was that the drug was shown to be effective in treating COVID-19 symptoms in a clinical trial of 70 people.
A January 2021 study in ACS Central Science concluded that favilavir and the antiviral drug ribavirin weren’t as effective as remdesivir. Despite its early approval in China, favilavir has yet to be authorized or approved by the FDA.
Not everyone with a SARS-CoV-2 infection will feel ill. Some people may even contract the virus and not develop symptoms. When there are symptoms, they’re usually mild and tend to come on slowly.
COVID-19 seems to cause more severe symptoms in older adults and people with underlying health conditions, such as chronic heart or lung conditions.
If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, follow this protocol:
- Call the doctor. If you have mild symptoms, call a doctor. To reduce transmission of the virus, many clinics encourage people to call or use a live chat function instead of going into a clinic. A doctor will evaluate your symptoms and work with local health authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine if you need to be tested.
- Stay home. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or another type of viral infection, stay home and get plenty of rest. Be sure to stay away from other people and avoid sharing items such as drinking glasses, utensils, keyboards, and phones.
COVID-19 is so common now that exposure is likely. If you’re feeling sick, assume that you may have COVID-19 and be sure to follow public health guidance (such as wearing a mask and isolating).
You should also take any medications that your doctor eventually recommends or prescribes. A growing number of effective treatments are available to help address the symptoms of COVID-19.
If you’re young and healthy and experience only mild symptoms, a doctor will likely advise you to isolate yourself at home and limit contact with others in your household. You’ll likely be advised to rest, stay well hydrated, and to monitor your symptoms closely.
If you’re an older adult, have any underlying health conditions, or have a compromised immune system, be sure to contact a doctor as soon as you notice symptoms. A doctor will advise you on the best course of action.
If your symptoms worsen despite home care, it’s important to get prompt medical care.
The symptoms that indicate a medical emergency are:
- having trouble breathing
- blue lips or a blue face
- persistent chest pain or pressure in the chest
- severe drowsiness
Call the local hospital, clinic, or urgent care to let them know you’ll be coming in, and wear a face mask once you leave your home. You can also call 911 or your local emergency services for immediate medical attention.
The novel coronavirus is primarily transmitted from person to person. At this point, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being around people who’ve been exposed to the virus.
Also, according to the
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if soap isn’t available.
- Avoid touching your face unless you’ve recently washed your hands.
- Stay clear of people who are coughing and sneezing. The CDC recommends standing at least 6 feet away from anyone who appears to be sick.
- Avoid crowded areas as much as possible.
Older adults are at the highest risk of infection and may want to take extra precautions to avoid coming into contact with the virus.
At the moment, the FDA has approved only one drug — remdesivir (Veklury) — for the treatment of COVID-19. A few drugs have received EUAs, though.
There’s little to no evidence that other unapproved or unauthorized medications have the potential to treat COVID-19 symptoms. More large-scale testing is needed to determine which additional treatments are also safe and effective.