6 Over-the-Counter Medicines to Treat Mild Coronavirus Symptoms, According to Medical Experts
Common OTC medicines like fever reducers, decongestants, and expectorants can help treat mild symptoms. Here are 6 still available to buy online.
It’s no secret that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought with it a lot of confusion and questions about the mechanism of the virus, like how it’s spread, who it affects, what the symptoms are, and—perhaps most importantly—how to treat it. While there is currently no vaccine or cure for it, the good news is that medical experts say many cases can be treated from the comfort of your home similar to how you’d handle the common cold or flu.
“Most people with coronavirus have a mild illness and will recover on their own,” Edward Fisher, MD PhD, a preventive cardiologist at NYU Langone, tells Health. “Often, their illness will feel like a common cold, and can be treated the same way as that with over-the-counter medications.”
Stephanie Hopkins, a Nurse Practitioner at NYU Langone, agrees that most healthy individuals can manage their symptoms at home. “Over-the-counter medications won’t shorten the length of the illness but may be helpful for mild upper respiratory symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat; and nasal and sinus congestion,” she said, adding that it’s also a good idea to contact your healthcare provider for individual advice.
Dr. Fisher recommends looking for cold medicine that contains acetaminophen to reduce minor fever and aches, a decongestant to minimize nasal pressure, and throat lozenges for irritation. Hopkins notes that it’s suggested to use acetaminophen (like Tylenol) instead of Ibuprofen (like Advil) as a fever reducer in suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases. “If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your health care provider before using these medicines, “ she adds.
According to Hopkins, other over-the-counter medicines that can help alleviate symptoms include cough expectorants like Mucinex or the generic version for the ingredient guaifenesin, cough suppressants like dextromethorphan or Robitussin, and decongestants like Sudafed or pseudoephedrine—though anyone with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or thyroid conditions should avoid decongestants.
Dr. Fisher and Hopkins stress that if your symptoms worsen or become severe—for example, if you have a fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (for adults) or difficulty breathing—you need to call your doctor or get medical help immediately.
With this input in mind, we found the best over-the-counter medicines that are still available to buy online and be shipped right to your door. Here are 6 doctor-approved options, plus the specific symptoms they can be used to treat:
- Best for Fever and Body Aches: Tylenol Extra Strength Pain Reliever Caplets
- Best for Cough: Mucinex 12-Hour Maximum Strength Expectorant Tablets
- Best for Nasal Congestion: Sudafed PE Non-Drowsy Nasal Decongestant Tablets
- Best Multi-Symptom: Mucinex Sinus-Max Severe Congestion Relief
- Best for Day and Night Relief: Mucinex Sinus-Max Day and Night Caplets
- Best for Sore Throat: Chloraseptic Maximum-Strength Sore Throat Lozenges
Below, shop these expert-recommended OTC picks—including pain relievers, fever reducers, cough suppressants, throat lozenges, and expectorants—so you can treat your mild symptoms and be on your way to feeling like yourself again.
Tylenol Extra Strength Pain Reliever Caplets
Both medical experts recommended acetaminophen for relieving aches, pain, and fevers commonly associated with COVID-19. Tylenol is the most well-known form of acetaminophen, and these extra strength, extended-release tablets for adults each contain 500 milligrams of the active ingredient for 6 hours of relief. The 24-count bottle is still available to order online for just $5.
Available at bedbathandbeyond.com, $5
Mucinex 12-Hour Maximum-Strength Expectorant Tablets
Guaifenesin, often known by the brand name Mucinex, is an expectorant that can help thin phlegm and treat chest congestion from upper respiratory viruses. These extended-release, maximum-strength tablets each include 1,200 milligrams of guaifenesin for 12 hours of relief so you can breathe easier.
Available at bedbathandbeyond.com, $25
Sudafed PE Non-Drowsy Nasal Decongestant Tablets
Hopkins recommends using Sudafed to relieve nasal congestion that can result from COVID-19, the common cold, or the flu. This non-drowsy, maximum-strength option contains 10 milligrams of phenylephrine in each pill to minimize nasal swelling, resulting in less sinus pressure and pain. These Sudafed tablets use phenylephrine for its decongestant benefits, but you can also opt for a medication with pseudoephedrine, which requires you to show identification and pick it up behind the pharmacy counter (no doctor’s prescription needed).
Available at target.com, $10
Mucinex Sinus-Max Severe Congestion Relief
For a combination drug that can reduce multiple symptoms, try Mucinex's Severe Congestion Relief caplets for adults. Using maximum strength doses of acetaminophen, guaifenesin, and phenylephrine, the non-drowsy medicine acts as a pain reliever, fever reducer, expectorant, and nasal decongestant in one, so you can treat a host of symptoms simultaneously and feel better faster.
Available at target.com, $13
Mucinex Sinus-Max Day and Night Caplets
Another option from Mucinex, this multi-symptom pack comes with 10 maximum-strength capsules for daytime relief and 10 for night. The non-drowsy day pill contains 3 doctor-recommended ingredients to treat coronavirus symptoms—acetaminophen, guaifenesin, and a decongestant—while the night pill uses an antihistamine instead of a cough expectorant to help you sleep.
Available at target.com, $14
Chloraseptic Maximum-Strength Sore Throat Lozenges
Dr. Fisher recommends lozenges to help soothe irritation from a sore throat or cough, and we like this fast-acting option from Chloraseptic. The berry-flavored lozenges use extra-strength doses of benzocaine and menthol to numb the throat slightly and cool down nasal passages, which helps to minimize pain and soreness. Available in a 15-pack for just $4, they’re easy to pop in your mouth for quick relief no matter where you are.
Available at bedbathandbeyond.com, $4
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.
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