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Covid-19 in the community

Managing Covid symptoms with medicines and home remedies

This section describes what people we spoke to thought about using medicines and home remedies to help manage their Covid symptoms. 
 
Across this section we explore in more detail what people thought about:

  • Advice from family and friends about home treatments
  • Conventional medicines
  • Boosting immune systems with vitamins and home remedies
  • Remedies to help with breathing

 
Advice from family and friends about home treatments

Emdad joked that ‘everyone was a doctor’ during the pandemic. Each person he spoke to had an opinion about how to manage Covid.
 

 

Doreen tried every medicine and remedy that friends and family recommended.

Doreen tried every medicine and remedy that friends and family recommended.

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My sister brought SATs machine, I had blood pressure machine, I got a temperature machine, I had cough mixtures, paracetamol, I had the West Indian ointments, the Himalayan salt, my relative in Atlanta phoned me and told me what to do to drink, to boil mint with ginger, orange juice and garlic and drink that. You name it, I had it.

 

Robert felt that too many different people were giving him advice while he was ill so switched off his phone.

Robert felt that too many different people were giving him advice while he was ill so switched off his phone.

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Oh yes. I have so many, actually had to, I literally turn off my phone and decide no I’m not going to allow people to invade me and people actually calling you, “Have you tried what I give to you?” you know you feel, well there came a time where I had to say to them, “oh right listen I’m sorry but I didn’t try that, and I will not try it. This is the reason why I’m not trying it” [laughs]. You know, because everybody’s like, “No but that one is not right, this one works. This, my grandmother, or my grand…” oh my god it was just going on and on and on.

 
 
People with friends and relatives in other countries, like Mehdi and Mahabuba, often received many different suggestions for how to address symptoms. The remedies that people used while they were ill included: 

  • Everyday medicines like paracetamol and ibuprofen
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Home remedies, particularly drinks made with ginger and/or garlic
  • Complementary and alternative therapies
  • Chinese Medicine
  • Techniques for improving breathing, like steam baths 

Conventional medicines 

People we spoke to often used painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen while they were ill. These medicines were sometimes helpful for bringing down fever and managing headaches and body-pain. Noam felt that ‘Covid responded quite well to paracetamol’.
 

 

Zubair had used paracetamol since childhood to manage fever and headaches.

Zubair had used paracetamol since childhood to manage fever and headaches.

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I remember it because obviously as soon as you fever you just take paracetamol. So that’s the thing we’ve been doing since childhood, right? Fever, headache, you just use paracetamol, and it just, you know, gets you down.


 
Paracetamol was not helpful for everyone. Neither Miura nor Mandy felt that paracetamol was enough to ease the strong headache they had while they were ill. Mandy said that painkillers ‘didn’t touch the sides of it’. Lyn decided that she ‘couldn’t live only on paracetamol’ and used Chinese medications as well, which she thought ‘helped a bit’. When paracetamol did help with pain and fever, the relief was sometimes very temporary. Goutam found it lifted his fever for half an hour before it came back again.
 
 

Doreen’s aunt recommended an alcohol rub to help with her fever as well as paracetamol.

Doreen’s aunt recommended an alcohol rub to help with her fever as well as paracetamol.

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And that was when my aunt used to, when my aunt phoned she said “Get somebody to get you some bay rum, it’s a bottle thing West Indian thing and use it,” she said, “and wet yourself rub yourself all over to cool yourself down.” And that didn’t, she said “if you haven’t got any bay rum, get some West Indian rum, put it in your hands, and wash your whole body with it to cool yourself down. Those were the stuff I was told to use.


 
Ayny and Jaswinder didn’t like to take paracetamol, so avoided it as much as possible when they had Covid. Haliza said she’s ‘not the type of person to take paracetamol every four hours’. Cindy tried to trust her body to fight illness on its own before resorting to taking painkillers. Pooja also preferred to try and ‘ride it out’. She would try homeopathy and home remedies first, such as Indian herbal teas.
 
 

Cindy preferred not to take paracetamol because she wanted to fight illness with her body.

Cindy preferred not to take paracetamol because she wanted to fight illness with her body.

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To be honest, my character, my personality, I don’t rely on medicine and, even when I’m very, very ill, I still believe that our body, my body can fight, you know. So normally, I only take some paracetamol when I, if I really headaches but I try to do this, I try to use my own body to fight first until I’m really bad and then I will take some Panadol or sometimes if I’m coughing really bad, then I take some medicine for me, to allow me to just allow to sleep, you know. Just that normally, I don’t like to take medicine.

 
Boosting immune systems with vitamins and home remedies

People we spoke to wanted to boost their immune system to help their body to recover from Covid. Miura and Irene took ‘loads of vitamins’. Milembe and her family started to take Vitamin D and zinc ‘religiously’. Sam took an immune support pill every day. As well as formal supplements, fruits and vegetables were also considered a useful source for vitamins, especially citrus fruit.
 

 

An acupuncturist advised Susanne that taking vitamins would give her an immune system boost.

An acupuncturist advised Susanne that taking vitamins would give her an immune system boost.

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Anyway I also have a good network of complementary health practitioners so I got in touch with an acupuncturist I know, he gave me some advice and so I did all of these kind of immune health boosting, like seven days having things with zinc, vitamin C.

 

Ayny took herbal home remedies and upped her vitamin D intake while she was ill.

Ayny took herbal home remedies and upped her vitamin D intake while she was ill.

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I was just upping my Vitamin D. Lots and lots of home remedies, lots of herbal teas that my sisters had like gifted me, obviously turmeric and then manuka honey and all of the goodness. I was just upping that. And honestly, I think I completely OD’d on Vitamin D [laughs]. My sisters were like, we’re short you know. Even the doctor said, “It’s fine.” You’d rather have more than less.

 

Shaista liked to use a mix of ‘conventional’ medicine and herbal remedies.

Shaista liked to use a mix of ‘conventional’ medicine and herbal remedies.

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You can’t, you can’t wish away illnesses away through vitamins and things like that. You just can’t, I don’t believe you can but at the time I believe that we have to have more holistic approach to medicine so I’m someone who’s always gone down the route of taking conventional medicine, also looking at other options as well, so, for example, acupuncture you know, some herbal medication. Supplementary things you can take to boost, you know, your immune system and things like that but that won’t, I don’t believe won’t make up for anything if you’re not also looking at conventional medicine as well and I believe in that very strongly.


 
As well as taking vitamins, lots of people we spoke to used home remedies that they believed would boost immunity. They made these out everyday foods, herbs and spices. Drinks that included ginger and/or garlic were particularly common.
 
 

Miura used a natural remedy from her home country that included garlic, ginger and lime.

Miura used a natural remedy from her home country that included garlic, ginger and lime.

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And so for like in my home country they use a lot of plant based, you know, natural remedies and some doctors use that as well, you know kind of natural medicine, so like garlic, lime… ginger. That also, that’s also helpful like for your lung and for your, just to protect you against the virus itself as well to help you with the things.

 

Elvis made his dad a drink of ginger, lemon, and red onion to help with his immune system.

Elvis made his dad a drink of ginger, lemon, and red onion to help with his immune system.

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There is ginger in it, there is lemon, there is there is onions, red onions, red onions, you know. And then you boil it with water. And then the water that comes from this after it’s been boiled, you drink it, you know. And then when you drink it says it wash the lungs, you know, it washed everything. And then you can try, you can better yourself, basically. It betters your immune systems, you know. So, you know, that what it does, you know? And people have been using that, and when they say drink a lot of liquid when you have Covid, you know, they say that those are the things that you supposed to drink, rather than drinking only water hot water or water or water. It’s better to drink things which have onions and lemon and ginger in it.

 

June took an ‘awful’ concoction of citrus, pepper, turmeric and ginger.

June took an ‘awful’ concoction of citrus, pepper, turmeric and ginger.

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A friend also had it in the early part of y'know, Covid, made me this concoction, which was awful. It had lemon, lime, black pepper, turmeric, ginger in it. But I took it because I think she’d taken it and it helped her. You know, no doctor is gonna see me. You’re kind of left to get on with it. I had to do something and so I, I did, I did take that concoction and my son was very good. He looked after me, but also made sure that I took the concoction and that I was drinking water and so on.


 
Some people we spoke to didn’t want to take these remedies. They were unsure if they would work and were concerned that they weren’t recommended by a doctor.
 
 

Robert gave up on ‘strange mixtures’ because he wanted to let his body fight Covid.

Robert gave up on ‘strange mixtures’ because he wanted to let his body fight Covid.

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So you’re boiling the ginger, you’re boiling the garlic, you’re doing everything some people come up with some strange, strange mixtures, you know, and I just had to look, decide forget all those things please because they’re not working, and no matter how much ginger I took my throat was still the same way, you know, and just stick with trying to allow my body to fight it.

 

Temitope didn’t want to take the garlic ‘concoction’ because it wasn’t recommended by a doctor.

Temitope didn’t want to take the garlic ‘concoction’ because it wasn’t recommended by a doctor.

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Many people mentioned garlic and this, I don’t even know what to call it, a concoction, where you mix garlic and turmeric and blend it until it gets, because I said it’s not recommended by the doctor, so I’m not taking it.

 
Remedies to help with breathing

Medicines, vitamins and homemade drinks helped with some symptoms but did not always help with breathing troubles. Beth said that they ‘wouldn’t stop you coughing’. To help with breathing some people we spoke to inhaled steam, sometimes with oils or medications like Vicks mixed into the boiling water. Gertrude used essential oils like lemon, oregano, peppermint and albas in her steam treatments.
 

 

Kashif used steam, vitamins and rest to help ease his symptoms.

Kashif used steam, vitamins and rest to help ease his symptoms.

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Yeah. So, everyone was advising take this that. The doctors themselves just said take painkillers to ease your temperature and stuff. But I think what worked for me was the steam. I used to do a lot of steam. That worked for me. That controlled my temperature, helped me a lot. But there wasn’t actually any medication. Vitamins, I used to take vitamins and then just hot drinks and steam and rest. I think the main thing was rest.

 

Emdad used a steam bath to help with congestion even though he found it difficult to keep his head in the steam for long.

Emdad used a steam bath to help with congestion even though he found it difficult to keep his head in the steam for long.

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And sometime put some hot water and some lemon and, you know, the, what’s it called, some medicine I forgot the name, one drop, you put it in the hot water and take the bath, it makes you like clear the congestion from your throat or something like this, clear and help you to breathe clearly because your nose, mucus maybe block so you can’t breathe properly and that bathe in hot water and this clears your nose and everything. It’s a bit like a tough time because things are hot, you know, the steam, you can’t put your head down too many, too long time but it’s still we had to go for it for better future. We work hard for this and this is maybe why we are okay now.

 

Doing a steam bath regularly made Mudasar’s breathing feel better and gave him hope for recovery.

Doing a steam bath regularly made Mudasar’s breathing feel better and gave him hope for recovery.

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This idea came in my mind, to improve the breathing, just take the steam. So when I started start taking that I see that small difference, small light and that gave me the hope, yes, this can improve me. So again, I started taking a lot like, you know, three, four, five times a day. It’s like that, so whenever I do that, I can see that I am getting better, I’m getting better, I’m getting better. So then slowly, slowly like it was at twenty, thirty percent it didn’t go up and then gradually, it came down, slowly, slowly. But then, at one time, I woke up and it’s gone. I say, yeah, that’s good. I’m so happy that there’s no breathing difficulty, yeah.


 

 

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