Which over-the-counter medications are best for coronavirus symptoms?

ibuprofen pills and bottle

Which OTC medications are best for treating coronavirus symptoms?

The most important thing to know about using over-the-counter medications to treat COVID-19 is that none of these common drugstore products are actually going to treat the virus itself. But these medications can certainly make you feel a whole lot more comfortable when you’re sick. Just make sure you’re following dosing guidelines on the label, especially for products like Tylenol. If you have other medical problems or take other medications, you should probably check to make sure OTC medicines aren’t a problem for you. That said, taking the things that work for you when you have a cold or the flu will probably make you feel better now, too.

In terms of specifics:  acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help lower your fever, assuming you don’t have a health history that should prevent you from using them. It’s usually not necessary to lower a fever – an elevated temperature is meant to help your body fight off the virus. But if you feel really awful, it’s okay to take a fever reducer. If your temperature is over 104 F, or you or your child has a history of febrile seizures, you will probably need to take something and you should contact your doctor.

These medicines will also help you get through the body aches. You can also try to manage coughs and sore throats with chamomile or herbal tea, hot water with lemon, lozenges and decongestant balms like Vicks VapoRub (or something similar). Most OTC cough medications have been proven to be ineffective and I don’t recommend them.

Finally, if you have diarrhea or stomach issues, the best thing to do is to let them run their course and stay hydrated by drinking lots of liquids. If you can’t keep liquids down or feel dizzy, contact your doctor. Just remember, you aren’t really better until you feel well without taking any of these medications.

Can acetaminophen (Tylenol) treat coronavirus?

Acetaminophen, also called paracetamol or Tylenol, helps to reduce fevers and can definitely help manage muscle pain and body aches associated with COVID-19. Acetaminophen doesn’t treat the virus itself, nor does it reduce the duration of your illness. A lot of people feel pretty miserable from a fever, which means a fever reducer like acetaminophen is definitely an option for some relief. That said, make sure you don’t take more than what’s specifically listed on the label because higher doses can be dangerous to your liver. If you’ve ever been told by your doctor that you shouldn’t take Tylenol, you definitely should not take it now.

Can ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) treat coronavirus?

Ibuprofen, which is also known by the brand names Advil and Motrin, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). These types of medications can help lower your fever and minimize muscle aches from COVID-19, while also reducing some inflammation in your body. Ibuprofen doesn’t treat the virus itself, but it can make you feel a lot better.

There was some concern early on in the coronavirus outbreak that ibuprofen and drugs like it might worsen outcomes for coronavirus patients, but so far we haven’t seen anything to support that. I recommend ibuprofen when fevers are high or people are feeling really miserable. However, you should still be careful: take ibuprofen with food and if you have any underlying kidney disease or ulcer disease, you may not want to reach for ibuprofen.

Can naproxen (Aleve) be used to treat coronavirus?

Naproxen, which is known as Aleve, is another NSAID (like ibuprofen) that can reduce inflammation and lower your fever. It cannot treat COVID-19 itself, but it can certainly help you feel better. Naproxen is similar to ibuprofen, except that it lasts longer. For many people, that means a single pill can keep your temperature down for up to 12 hours and help stave off body aches. But remember, if your doctor has told you not to take medications like ibuprofen or naproxen before, you shouldn’t take either one now.

COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly across the globe, so some information may be outdated from our publish date. For our latest updates, read our most recent coronavirus coverage.

 

 

Emily Landon, MD

Emily Landon, MD

Dr. Emily Landon specializes in infectious disease, and serves as medical director of antimicrobial stewardship and infection control.

Learn more about Dr. Landon.

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