Fact or fiction? COVID self-treatment and symptoms

March 25, 2020 Providence News Team

We at Providence continue to monitor news about the COVID-19 outbreak. Recent topics in the media include self-treatment options and symptoms. To share the most current knowledge about COVID-19, we address these topics in another round of Fact or Fiction (see Part 1 here).

Self-Treatment Fictions

Q: Can I treat myself for COVID-19 with quinine and tonic water?
There is no evidence to support this as a treatment option. There is a theoretical connection with hydroxychloroquine, which itself is unproven at this stage. Potentially this connection comes from hydroxychloroquine being described as a potential therapy for COVID-19, as well as its use to treat malaria. Since tonic water has quinine which is also used to treat malaria, some people make the leap to connect it back to being able to treat COVID-19. But there is nothing in the current literature to support quinine or tonic water for COVID-19 treatment. (Source: ASHP Assessment of Evidence for COVID-19 Related Treatments)

Q: Does ibuprofen really worsen my symptoms, especially for my lungs?
There is currently no scientific evidence establishing a link between ibuprofen and worsening of COVID‑ 19. Neither the US Food and Drug Administration or the European Medicines Agency are aware of evidence suggesting that using ibuprofen will make symptoms of COVID-19 worse.

FDA Statement
At this time, FDA is not aware of scientific evidence connecting the use of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like ibuprofen, with worsening COVID-19 symptoms.

European Medicines Agency Statement
In line with European Union national treatment guidelines, patients and healthcare professionals can continue using NSAIDs (like ibuprofen) as per the approved product information. Current advice includes that these medicines are used at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible period.

Symptom Fictions
Q: I am losing my sense of smell and/or taste – is that a precursor to COVID-19?
Anecdotal reports are occurring—enough that the British Rhinologic Society says it appears to be among potential early symptoms. However, there is nothing proven, and these are not reliable enough symptoms to go for a test.

Q: Are gastrointestinal (GI) issues like diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting, etc., the start of COVID19 that come before the other typical symptoms like sore throat, fever, chills, and aches?
GI symptoms occur in about 20 percent of patients and potentially could come early. Usually these symptoms come after a fever. These symptoms are not specific enough (especially without a fever) to prompt testing.

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