COVID-19 Suspected or Confirmed

COVID-19 Infection: What You Should Know

  • You or your child have been diagnosed as having COVID-19 by a positive test (home kit or lab) OR
  • You or your child have symptoms of COVID-19 AND:
  • known exposure (close contact) to COVID-19 in the past 2 weeks OR
  • COVID-19 cases are widespread in your community OR
  • suspected diagnosis was made by your doctor.
  • Most infections are mild, especially in children.
  • Here’s some care advice to help the sick person feel better.

Treatment of Symptoms:

  • The treatment is the same whether you have COVID-19, influenza or some other respiratory virus.
  • You or your child should stay home until fever is gone for 24 hours (without taking fever-reducing medicines) and you have only mild symptoms and are improving. Reason: you want to protect other people from getting it.
  • Treat the symptoms that are bothering you or your child the most.
  • Antiviral treatments have been developed for patients who are high risk for complications. They work best when taken early. Check with your doctor for the most current information.
  • Antibiotics are not helpful for viral infections.
  • You don’t need to call or see your doctor unless you or your child are at high risk for complications, develop trouble breathing or become worse in any other way.

Fever Treatment

  • For fever above 102 F (39 C), you may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen if the patient is uncomfortable.
  • For fevers 100-102 F (37.8 to 39 C), fever medicines are not needed. Reason: fever turns on your body’s immune system. Fever helps fight the infection.
  • Exception: if the patient also has pain, treat it.
  • Fluids: offer cool fluids in unlimited amounts. Reason: prevent dehydration. For children younger than 6 months, only give formula or breastmilk. Staying well-hydrated helps the body sweat and give off heat.

Cough Treatment

  • Age 6 Months to 1 Year:
    • Give warm clear fluids (such as apple juice or lemonade) to thin the mucus and relax the airway. Dosage: 1-2 teaspoons (5-10 ml) four times per day when coughing.
    • If nothing else helps: give a small amount of corn syrup. Dosage: ¼ teaspoon (1 ml). Can give up to 4 times a day when coughing. Caution: avoid honey until 1 year old. Reason: risk for botulism.
  • Age 1 Year and Older:
    • Use honey, ½ to 1 teaspoon (2 to 5 ml) as needed, as a homemade cough medicine. It can thin the secretions and loosen the cough. If honey is not available, can use corn syrup.
    • OTC cough syrups with honey in them are also available. They are not more effective than plain honey and cost much more per dose.
  • Age 6 Years and Older:
    • Use cough drops (throat drops) to decrease the tickle in the throat. If not available, can use hard candy.
    • Avoid cough drops before 6 years. Reason: risk of choking.
    • Over the Counter (OTC) cough medicines are not recommended. Reason: no proven benefit for children. Honey has been shown to work better.
    • Don’t use OTC cough medicines under 6 years of age. Reason: cough is a protective reflex.
  • Adults:
    • Over-the-Counter (OTC) Cough Syrups: some people find that cough syrups help decrease coughing. Dextromethorphan is the most common cough suppressant in
    • OTC cough syrups. Often the letters ‘DM’ appear in the name.
    • OTC Cough Drops: cough drops can help a lot. They work best for mild coughs. They soothe the tickling feeling in the back of the throat. Cough drops are easy to carry with you.
    • Home Remedy – Hard Candy: hard candy works just as well as OTC cough drops. People who have diabetes should use sugar-free candy.
    • Home Remedy – Honey: honey has been shown to help decrease coughing at night. The adult dose is 2 teaspoons (10 mL) at bedtime.

Sore Throat Treatment

  • COVID-19 often causes a sore throat. Here are some tips on treating it:
  • Age over 1 year: can sip warm fluids such as chicken broth or apple juice. Some children prefer cold foods such as popsicles or ice cream.
  • Age over 6 years: can also suck on hard candy or lollipops. Butterscotch seems to help.
  • Age over 8 years: can also gargle. Use warm water with a little table salt added. A liquid antacid can be added instead of salt. Use Mylanta or the store brand. No prescription is needed.
  • Pain medicine: use if pain interferes with swallowing. Not needed for mild pain.
  • Adults:
    • Sip warm chicken broth or apple juice.
    • Suck on hard candy or a throat lozenge.
    • Gargle with warm salt water four times a day.
    • Avoid smoking.
    • Pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve): use if pain interferes with swallowing. Not needed for mild pain.

Muscle Pain Treatment

  • COVID-19 can normally cause muscle pains and body aches.
  • Massage: gently massage any sore muscles.
  • Stretching: gently stretch any sore muscles.
  • Apply Heat: use a heat pack, heating pad or warm, wet washcloth. Do this for 10 minutes 3 times per day.
  • Warm bath: for widespread muscle pains, consider a warm bath for 20 minutes, 2 times a day. Gently exercise the sore muscles under water.
  • Pain medicine: for widespread body aches, give acetaminophen every 4 hours OR ibuprofen every 6 hours as needed. (See Dosage table.) Not needed for mild aches.

Fluids – Stay Well-hydrated

  • Drink lots of fluids. Water is best.
  • Goal: keep the patient well-hydrated.
  • It loosens up any phlegm in the lungs. Then it’s easier to cough up.
  • It helps the body sweat and give off heat.

COVID-19 Testing – When and Where:

  • If COVID-19 is suspected, get a test to know for sure. You can’t tell by symptoms. Reason: most respiratory viruses cause similar symptoms.
  • Home self-test kits are easy to get at many grocery and drug stores.
  • Most doctor’s offices, retail clinics and urgent care centers also offer testing.
  • Here are some facts that may answer some of your questions:
  • Diagnostic Tests are performed on nasal or mouth secretions. The test can tell us if you have a COVID-19 infection now. Timing is important on when to do this test:
    • With Symptoms. Get a test within 3 days of onset of symptoms.
    • Without Symptoms and with a COVID-19 close contact. You can get a test on day 5 after the last day of exposure.

How to Protect Others – When You or Your Child are Sick:

  • Stay home until fever is gone for 24 hours and symptoms are mild and improving. Do not allow any visitors, even friends.
  • Cover the Cough. Cough and sneeze into your shirt sleeve or inner elbow. Don’t cough into your hand or the air. If available, sneeze into a tissue and throw it into a trash can.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water. After coughing or sneezing are important times.
  • Do not go to work or school.
  • Don’t share glasses, plates or eating utensils.
  • Avoid contact with people 65 and older and people with weak immune systems or other chronic health problems.

Call or Contact Your Doctor If:

  • Trouble breathing occurs
  • You think you or your child need to be seen
  • Symptoms get worse

Author: Barton Schmitt, MD, FAAP
Copyright 2024. Updated February 20, 2024.
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.