Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home. You can treat symptoms like aches and fever with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). Rest, eat and drink enough fluids.
Risk Factors for Severe Illness
Some people are more likely than others to become severely ill from COVID-19. Severe illness can mean hospitalization, intensive care or placement on a ventilator to help with breathing.
Older adults are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. Although the risk begins to increase for those in their 50s, people over 65 are at highest risk to get severely ill.
Underlying Medical Conditions
According to the CDC, certain underlying medical conditions can put you at higher risk for developing severe COVID-19. This includes:
- A weakened immune system
- Certain disabilities
- Certain heart conditions
- Chronic kidney, liver or lung diseases
- HIV infection
- Organ or stem cell transplants
- Past stroke or cerebrovascular disease
People who are pregnant, recently gave birth or are breastfeeding should be aware of the risks from COVID-19. The overall risk of COVID to pregnant women is low. However, women who are pregnant or were recently pregnant are at increased risk of severe illness. Pregnant women who contract COVID are more likely to deliver their baby before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy (premature birth). The risk of pregnancy loss or stillbirth may also increase with infection.
Outpatient Treatment Options for COVID-19
If you test positive and you’re more likely to get very sick, treatment could help prevent severe disease. To qualify for outpatient treatment of COVID-19, you must have:
- recently tested positive.
- mild to moderate symptoms not severe enough to require hospitalization.
- a higher risk of developing serious illness due to the risk factors listed above.
Paxlovid™ (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir)
Paxlovid™ is the first choice for therapy and is taken by mouth twice a day for 5 days. Patients must be at least 12 years old and weigh at least 88 pounds.
Although shown to be very effective, there’s a long list of other drugs that can’t be taken with Paxlovid. Your doctor and pharmacist must check the medications that you normally take and make sure they’re safe to take with Paxlovid.
Remdesivir is the only treatment approved to treat COVID-19 for infants (as young as 28 days), children and adults. Treatment involves an infusion given in an outpatient setting for 3 consecutive days.
Some people who can’t take Paxlovid or access remdesivir may benefit from the antibody treatment Bebtelovimab. Patients must be at least 12 years old and weigh at least 88 pounds. Bebtelovimab is given by injection.
Molnupiravir is an oral medication taken in pill form. This medication is limited to patients who are unable to either take Paxlovid or obtain remdesivir.
Paxlovid™ or molnupiravir must be started within 5 days of symptoms. Remdesivir and the antibody treatment Bebtelovimab must be started within 7 days of having symptoms. Starting the medications as soon as possible after diagnosis increases how well they work.
Medications to treat COVID-19 must be prescribed by a healthcare provider. Some treatments could have side effects or interact with other medications you take. If you have one or more of the risk factors mentioned above, contact a healthcare provider right away, even if your symptoms are mild. They can help determine whether you’re eligible for treatment and which treatment option is right for you. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your local community health center.
People have been seriously harmed or died after using products not approved specifically to treat or prevent COVID-19. Even products approved or prescribed for other uses can be dangerous if not used as directed. Talk to your healthcare provider about using any medications to treat COVID.