Battling COVID-19 At Home? These Self-Medication Techniques Are Not Going to Help


Battling COVID-19 At Home? These Self-Medication Techniques Are Not Going to Help

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we have only a few concrete answers for how to treat this ever-mutating disease. While symptoms from the first wave of the pandemic were flu-like, predominantly defined by fever, fatigue, and cough, the subsequent spread has taken all kinds of different turns. Now, reports are emerging of symptoms related to the new variants, including red, itchy eyes, black or blue blood clots in the extremities, headaches, dry mouth, and more asymptomatic cases than ever. Like WebMD telling you that your muscle cramp might actually be liver cancer, practically any ailment, big or small, could be a sign of COVID-19.

To tackle a virus that is so all-encompassing and lurking around every corner feels like an impossible task, and so it’s tempting to try and find a cure wherever we can. Vaccines are in short supply, and due to the rapid mutations of the virus, even the elusive double dose is not a guarantee against becoming COVID-positive, although it drastically reduces the odds of hospitalisation or death, and as more people get vaccinated, the virus has fewer chances to mutate.

However, mass vaccination is a long way off for most of India. Meanwhile, a lot of other “immunity boosters” and drugs are being touted as solutions to fight the virus. But how effective are they really? Here, we break down five popular meds and some concoctions that might not be worth getting your hands on, when you could just sanitise them instead.

This Patanjali herbal pill was advertised by the AYUSH Ministry as an immune booster that could prevent COVID-19 last year. While a strong immune system is helpful in preventing you from contracting any virus, such products do not fight the coronavirus itself. Then, there is the fact that while supplements like vitamin C, combined with a healthy lifestyle, can be beneficial for immunity, they will not work overnight. No wonder the Indian Medical Association clarified that Coronil is not approved to treat COVID-19, nor is it certified by the World Health Organisation, pushing the geniuses at Patanjali to take a U-turn.

When former US President Donald Trump recommended this remedy for COVID-19, many Indians rejoiced, as this anti-malarial drug is readily available. It has anti-inflammatory properties and might inhibit the “cytokine storm” response that can so suddenly cause COVID mortality. However, subsequent medical trials found that using this treatment has no significant impact on patient outcomes. In short, this is not a wonder drug that will beat the virus.

If you’ve been online in the past month, you will have seen the countless appeals for Remdesivir vials, which have become scarce due to the massive demand. Now, several states have made the coveted drug available only through hospitals, and vials on the black market can cost you lakhs of rupees. Like the standard prescription of steroids, this powerful anti-inflammatory can help failing lungs recover from the ravages of COVID, but neither should ever be administered without a health professional’s guidance. Even as people rush to procure these drugs, they can be fatal if given at the wrong phase of illness, or to patients whose symptoms don’t require them.

The spotlight has come onto various Ayurvedic treatments, including the controversial cow-based ones that are getting government research funding. Panchgavya, consisting of cow’s milk, ghee, curd, gomutra, and gobar, has become popular particularly in rural areas, where hospitals and medicines are hard to find. In fact, an isolation centre has been set up in a Gujarat village to “treat” coronavirus patients with panchgavya along with other allopathic drugs.

But you don’t need a doc to tell you that this supposedly “traditional remedy” is anything but snake oil. To make matters worse, these treatments are often given out to large groups and gatherings, which facilitates the spread of COVID-19. It’s a better idea to stay isolated and drink plenty of fluids: soups, teas, and juices if you have mild symptoms. No need for panchgavya on the menu.

Ayush Kwath
Another herbal immunity booster Ayush Kwath is also recommended by the AYUSH Ministry. But the key difference that sets it apart from Coronil is that it does not claim to be a COVID-19 cure. This is a kadha powder containing tulsi, cinnamon, ginger, and other herbal ingredients that are used in Ayurveda to treat coughs and colds. While Ayush Kwath could be a comforting drink for Covid sufferers who are dealing with sore throats and fever, or who only have mild respiratory symptoms, it is not meant to treat the virus. It’s also worth checking with your doctor if any ingredients in Ayush Kwath are not compatible with your medicines. Otherwise, enjoy this hot kadha that will likely provide some relief to your cough.