COVID-19

Home remedies to ease COVID-19 symptoms, and what to eat when sick

Michelle Abad
Home remedies to ease COVID-19 symptoms, and what to eat when sick
No more over-the-counter medicines at your local pharmacy? Here are some items you might have at home that could help soothe COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms.

MANILA, Philippines – With the Philippines experiencing an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases, Filipinos have begun to report that their local pharmacies are running out of medicines used to treat flu symptoms.

The COVID-19 surge comes alongside the usual flu season, where Filipinos experience symptoms such as cold, cough, body pains, and fever.

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While it’s ideal to acquire medicines based on a doctor’s advice and prescription, what should you do when they aren’t available at drugstores?

Fortunately, there are some foods and drinks that may already be in your kitchen that can serve as home remedies to ease COVID-19 symptoms.

The Department of Health (DOH) has also provided guidance on what COVID-19 patients can eat to boost their health and immunity.

While the following foods and drinks may soothe COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms, it is important to note that these are NOT cures for the virus itself.

According to the World Health Organization, there is currently no evidence to support herbal teas, herbal supplements, or probiotics to help prevent or cure COVID-19. The WHO also said ginger and garlic, while having antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, have not shown evidence of being able to prevent COVID-19. Still, these can be helpful to the human body in other ways.

Health authorities around the world still recommend vaccination to protect against COVID-19, along with other preventive measures, like wearing face masks, washing hands, and keeping distance from others.

On Tuesday, January 11, the Philippines recorded 28,007 new COVID-19 cases. This brings to over 3 million the total number of infections since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The spike is seen to be driven by the highly infectious Omicron variant, which is causing surges all over the world.

Fever or chills

Fever is part of the body’s defense against infection, according to Harvard Health Publishing. The DOH advises drinking plenty of water, fresh fruit juice, or mild tea.

Taking a slightly warm shower or bathing regularly, wearing comfortable clothes, and using appropriate blankets while in an adequately ventilated room can also help manage fever. Harvard Health also suggests applying damp washcloths to the forehead and wrists to manage the fever.

Body pain

Ginger has been cited in some studies to have a pain-lowering effect. However, a 2020 study said that there needs to be further research to create a consensus on the dosage of ginger for long-term therapy.

A 2018 study found that ginger, in addition to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, may contribute to treating migraines. The Brazilian scientists found that ginger treatment “promoted reduction in pain” for emergency room patients.

Cough

Lagundi (the type with five leaves) is approved by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration to treat cough and asthma. The DOH advises to boil the leaves, divide the boiled solution into three parts, and drink one part every four hours. Beware of unregistered lagundi products.

Some studies have shown that honey has helped alleviate discomfort in patients with cough. A 2014 study posted by the United States National Institutes of Health on its website found that there is increasing evidence that a single dose of honey may reduce mucus secretion and reduce cough in children.

University of Oxford scientists also said in 2020 that doctors could recommend honey as an alternative to antibiotics. (However, honey should not be given to children under one.)

Cold

Melissa Bailey, a clinical dietician at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said in 2018 that there was scientific evidence backing the consumption of soup when one is sick.

According to Bailey, sodium in some soup recipes helps relieve sore throat pain (the same principle behind gargling warm salt water). Heat from soups can also help clear nasal congestion, and can relieve pain and sinus pressure.

Lugaw, or rice porridge cooked with ginger and chicken, is a local option and known as a comfort healing food in the Philippines.

Sore throat

For sore throat, the DOH advises drinking herbal tea like ginger tea (salabat), gargling lukewarm water with salt, or taking lozenges or cough drops.

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

Nausea can make eating difficult. The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine advises not to eat or drink until vomiting is controlled. People experiencing nausea can try eating bland food, such as toast, saltine crackers, dry cereal, and oatmeal.

When someone vomits or has diarrhea, the body loses electrolytes like sodium, which are crucial for the body to function.

Some doctors in the US have recommended hydrating with fluids other than water, such as sports drinks like Gatorade. Gatorade has sugar, however, and so a healthier alternative to replenish electrolytes is coconut water.

Rice coffee, which is made from roasted rice, may also help with digestion. According to a blog by Dr. Penelope Domogo, who served as a Mountain Province health officer, the drink may alleviate discomfort from diarrhea, stomach ache, or vomitting.

“Rice coffee has a centering energy and so it stabilizes the expansive energy of yin foods and calms the irritability of the digestive tract. It also absorbs toxins and neutralizes the acid in the stomach and intestines,” Domogo wrote.

The caffeine-free alternative to your usual cup of joe can be prepared by roasting rice until brown or black. Once cool, place the rice in an airtight container. To brew, spoon the roasted rice in a pot or kettle of water (Domogo recommends one tablespoon of rice to one cup) and boil until the water turns brown or black, depending on your desired concentration.

General nutrition

The DOH has issued guidelines on how to feed a COVID-19 patient. Generally, it’s advisable for COVID-19 patients to eat nutritious food, which would contribute to overall health and immunity.

Here are some nutrients the DOH says COVID-19 patients need, and examples of foods and where to get them:

  • Vitamin C – known to help boost the immune system
    • Examples: guava, lemon, guyabano, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables (like malunggay, gabi leaves), sili, mustasa, ampalaya, peppers, chicharo, cauliflower
  • Vitamin A and Beta-carotene – for maintaining vision, promoting growth and development, and protecting body tissues and mucus integrity in the body
    • Examples: liver, fish liver oils, butter, eggs, dark leafy greens (like malunggay, kamote, kangkong, pechay, kalabasa, mustasa, sili or pepper leaves, alugbati, gabi leaves, saluyot, ampalaya, and kulitis), rich yellow or deep orange vegetables and fruits (like carrot, squash, tomato, mango, melon, papaya, yellow kamote, and yellow corn)
  • Vitamin D – regulates absorption of calcium and phosphorous, and facilitates immune system function
    • Examples: fatty fish (like alumahan, dilis, tilapia, salmon, tuna, mackerel, fish liver oils), beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, shrimp, soy milk, cereals fortified with Vitamin D
    • Vitamin D can be made in the skin by exposure to sunlight. If sunlight is unavailable due to isolation, the above-listed foods can help.
  • B-vitamins – help release energy from food
    • Examples: liver, eggs, beef, pork, fish, poultry, legumes, whole grains, bran cereals
  • Folate – helps make and repair DNA
    • Examples: legumes, leafy green vegetables, eggs, citrus fruits
  • Zinc – helps strengthen the immune system and fight viruses
    • Example: milk, beef, liver, seafood, eggs, mushrooms, spinach, sea vegetables, pumpkin seeds, green peas, nuts, legumes, whole grain cereals, wheat, bran
  • Protein – helps prevent muscle deterioration, strengthens immune response to viral infections
    • Examples: eggs, fish, chicken, munggo, tofu, soy milk, beans, lentils, peas, nuts
  • Fats – especially omega-3 fatty acids, which support immunity and defend against inflammatory disorders
    • Examples: avocado, vegetable oil, coconut oil, fatty fish (like mackerel, salmon, sardines)

The DOH also recommends adding foods that have known anti-inflammatory effects, like ginger, turmeric, and onions. – Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer with the investigative unit of Rappler. She also covers overseas Filipinos and the rights of women and children.