How to treat COVID-19 fever and pain safely at home

Even the safest painkiller must be used with care, pharmacist warns.

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Many COVID-19 patients list severe headaches, body aches, a sore throat and chest pain as symptoms when they were ill, with fever, chills, and shivers reported as the most common symptoms. These symptoms can also, however, be associated with other viral infections like the flu.

The good news is, these symptoms can be safely managed at home with advice from your doctor or pharmacist.

Treating your fever

A fever of 37.5°C or higher is a common response to an infection such as COVID-19.

You don’t need a doctor’s script to treat fever, aches and pains as these symptoms can be effectively managed with paracetamol, says Pharmacist Ria Westerman of Medipost Pharmacy.

When should you avoid paracetamol to treat COVID-19 symptoms?

Ria says paracetamol is safe to use for everyone – from pregnant women and babies to adults, with very few side-effects and little interaction with other types of medicine. “The most significant is the interaction with anticoagulants (blood thinning), such as Warfarin. “If you’re on such treatments, you should only take paracetamol under supervision or on the recommendation of your doctor,” Ria advises.

ALSO SEE: Why you shouldn’t use ibuprofen to treat your child’s fever during COVID-19

If you have a liver or hepatic impairment, you shouldn’t take paracetamol either as the medication is metabolised or processed through the liver. “As alcohol dependence can affect liver function, these patients should seek their doctor’s advice and only take paracetamol on their recommendation,” Ria says.

Just because it’s safe – it doesn’t mean you can’t overdose  

There are many products containing paracetamol, which is the generic name for the compound, and it’s available under many different brand names – either as a single ingredient or in combination with other ingredients.

Accidental overdose is unfortunately common, says Ria, but can be avoided. “If you are taking more than one type of medicine, it’s important to check all the ingredients to ensure you don’t exceed the safe dosage for paracetamol.”

What is a safe dosage of paracetamol?

The standard dose for adults is 500mg (1 tablet) to 1 000mg (2 tablets) four times per day. Adults shouldn’t take more than 2 tablets in a six-hour period, or 8 tablets in 24 hours.

Ria says it’s crucial that any medicine is only ever used according to the manufacturer’s or a healthcare professional’s advice, as inappropriate use can be harmful.

Keep in touch with your doctor

“Although most people who fall ill with COVID-19 are able to recover at home with symptomatic relief, it’s important to keep in regular contact with your treating doctor and seek medical attention immediately if your symptoms worsen,” says Ria.

She also suggests regularly checking your blood oxygen levels with an oximeter, which is available from leading pharmacies.

More about the expert:

Ria Westerman is a pharmacist at Medipost Pharmacy. Since qualifying as a pharmacist at University of the North West, Ria has gained experience in the retail and courier pharmacy environment, and has worked in both the private and public sector. Ria joined Medipost Pharmacy in 2007 and has a special interest in patient-orientated care, the clinical and biological effects of medicine, and is a proud mother of two adult children. 

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