Managing Covid symptoms with medicines and home remedies

This section describes what people we spoke to thought about using medicines and home remedies to help manage their Covid symptoms.

Across this section we explore in more detail what people thought about:

  • Advice from family and friends about home treatments
  • Conventional medicines
  • Boosting immune systems with vitamins and home remedies
  • Remedies to help with breathing

Advice from family and friends about home treatments

Emdad joked that ‘everyone was a doctor’ during the pandemic. Each person he spoke to had an opinion about how to manage Covid.

Doreen tried every medicine and remedy that friends and family recommended.

Robert felt that too many different people were giving him advice while he was ill so switched off his phone.

People with friends and relatives in other countries, like Mehdi and Mahabuba, often received many different suggestions for how to address symptoms. The remedies that people used while they were ill included:

  • Everyday medicines like paracetamol and ibuprofen
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Home remedies, particularly drinks made with ginger and/or garlic
  • Complementary and alternative therapies
  • Chinese Medicine
  • Techniques for improving breathing, like steam baths

Conventional medicines

People we spoke to often used painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen while they were ill. These medicines were sometimes helpful for bringing down fever and managing headaches and body-pain. Noam felt that ‘Covid responded quite well to paracetamol’.

Zubair had used paracetamol since childhood to manage fever and headaches.

Paracetamol was not helpful for everyone. Neither Miura nor Mandy felt that paracetamol was enough to ease the strong headache they had while they were ill. Mandy said that painkillers ‘didn’t touch the sides of it’. Lyn decided that she ‘couldn’t live only on paracetamol’ and used Chinese medications as well, which she thought ‘helped a bit’. When paracetamol did help with pain and fever, the relief was sometimes very temporary. Goutam found it lifted his fever for half an hour before it came back again.

Doreen’s aunt recommended an alcohol rub to help with her fever as well as paracetamol.

Ayny and Jaswinder didn’t like to take paracetamol, so avoided it as much as possible when they had Covid. Haliza said she’s ‘not the type of person to take paracetamol every four hours’. Cindy tried to trust her body to fight illness on its own before resorting to taking painkillers. Pooja also preferred to try and ‘ride it out’. She would try homeopathy and home remedies first, such as Indian herbal teas.

Boosting immune systems with vitamins and home remedies

People we spoke to wanted to boost their immune system to help their body to recover from Covid. Miura and Irene took ‘loads of vitamins’. Milembe and her family started to take Vitamin D and zinc ‘religiously’. Sam took an immune support pill every day. As well as formal supplements, fruits and vegetables were also considered a useful source for vitamins, especially citrus fruit.

An acupuncturist advised Susanne that taking vitamins would give her an immune system boost.

Ayny took herbal home remedies and upped her vitamin D intake while she was ill.

Shaista liked to use a mix of ‘conventional’ medicine and herbal remedies.

As well as taking vitamins, lots of people we spoke to used home remedies that they believed would boost immunity. They made these out everyday foods, herbs and spices. Drinks that included ginger and/or garlic were particularly common.

Miura used a natural remedy from her home country that included garlic, ginger and lime.

Elvis made his dad a drink of ginger, lemon, and red onion to help with his immune system.

June took an ‘awful’ concoction of citrus, pepper, turmeric and ginger.

Some people we spoke to didn’t want to take these remedies. They were unsure if they would work and were concerned that they weren’t recommended by a doctor.

Robert gave up on ‘strange mixtures’ because he wanted to let his body fight Covid.

Temitope didn’t want to take the garlic ‘concoction’ because it wasn’t recommended by a doctor.

Remedies to help with breathing

Medicines, vitamins and homemade drinks helped with some symptoms but did not always help with breathing troubles. Beth said that they ‘wouldn’t stop you coughing’. To help with breathing some people we spoke to inhaled steam, sometimes with oils or medications like Vicks mixed into the boiling water. Gertrude used essential oils like lemon, oregano, peppermint and albas in her steam treatments.

Kashif used steam, vitamins and rest to help ease his symptoms.

Emdad used a steam bath to help with congestion even though he found it difficult to keep his head in the steam for long.

Doing a steam bath regularly made Mudasar’s breathing feel better and gave him hope for recovery.