First off: There are no secret at-home cures for COVID-19. There is no evidence that taking vitamin C supplements, for example, is of any use

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The latest wave of COVID-19 is ripping through Canada, with record-breaking case counts being reported in some provinces.

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With 207,418 active cases in Canada as of Dec. 29, and just over 1,201 in hospital as of Dec. 20 (the most recent available data from the Public Health Agency of Canada), plenty of people are at home, recovering from an infection. So what’s the best way to get better?

First off: There are no secret at-home cures for COVID-19. There is no evidence, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, that taking vitamin C supplements, for example, is of any use. Nor is there sufficient evidence to recommend vitamin D or zinc as curative supplements.

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This means, if you come down with Omicron, you’re left with the tried and tested methods that any doctor at any walk-in clinic or on any telehealth line is going to give you: plenty of rest and plenty of fluids.

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Lee Green, the chair in the department of family medicine at the University of Alberta, said most people who are vaccinated can expect a mild illness — but that won’t be the case for everyone.

“The most important thing is to keep your antennas up and get medical attention promptly if it starts behaving like a not-mild illness,” Green said.

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There are various legal requirements to isolate if you’re sick, and public health agencies across the country are recommending isolation for COVID-like symptoms and exposure to those who have COVID-19, even if you, yourself, aren’t feeling ill.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) suggests eating well and exercising while in isolation and using video calls to stay in touch with friends and family.

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The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those for other illnesses. Someone who’s contracted the virus may be asymptomatic, but if they do  show symptoms, according to the Canadian government, they’re likely to see the following: a new or worsening cough; temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher; chills; body aches; weakness and fatigue; and/or shortness of breath.

Just as the symptoms are similar to other illnesses, so too are the treatments .

“Your immune system will get rid of this … so the important thing there is support your immune system,” said Green. “Eat sensibly, eat healthy food. Your body needs good nutrition to support your immune system. This is not the time to skip your fruits and vegetables.”

The tried-and-tested mom strategy of sitting in a steamy bathroom can help alleviate congestion and vaseline can be a comforting balm for a nose rubbed raw from Kleenex.

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Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can be taken to alleviate discomfort, says the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, which maintains an extensive website about treating COVID-19 at home. (PHAC suggests avoiding painkillers if you are in quarantine from a possible exposure, but have not been confirmed COVID positive, as they “could hide an early symptom of COVID-19.”)

“It’s not going to make you better, but it’ll help you not suffer as much until your immune system makes you better,” said Green.

Early in the pandemic, social media posts claimed ibuprofen could make COVID-19 worse. A March 2020 notice from Health Canada says “there is no scientific evidence that establishes a link between ibuprofen and the worsening of COVID-19 symptoms.”

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The Alberta government says those with COVID-19 should get plenty of rest and drink lots of water to avoid dehydration from fever. A good gauge of whether or not you are well hydrated is whether or not your urine is light yellow or clear.

“Extra rest can help you feel better,” says the Alberta government . “Water, soup, fruit juice, and hot tea with lemon are all good choices.”

Plus, fluids can help with a sore throat and thin out mucus. So, too, can a hard candy or lozenge designed for that purpose.

If a person has a cough, they might take a spoonful of honey to sooth the symptoms — but don’t give honey to babies. The NHS suggests avoiding lying on your back, instead sitting upright or lying on your side.

Alberta, cautioning against using cough medicines for those under six years of age, says they can help alleviate symptoms in older people.

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The Alberta government, noting, “this is good advice anytime,” suggests that one not smoke or breathe second-hand smoke while sick with COVID-19.

Green said you don’t need to be constantly monitoring your temperature if you’re feeling relatively OK.

“It’s a good idea to take your temperature if you feel badly…. If you’re feeling terrible and if you feel like you might have a fever, make sure to check,” he said.

There are some symptoms that shouldn’t be managed at home, and if you have them, you should seek medical care. The federal government recommends you call 911 if you have significant trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, new onset of confusion or difficulty waking up.

Noel Gibney, a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta’s school of medicine, said the risk is for those who start out with a mild illness, but then it gets worse. He suggested purchasing a pulse oximiter, which can tell you your blood oxygen level, and provide a warning sign of when to seek medical care.

“You don’t want to miss it when somebody is getting to the point of needing oxygen or specific therapies for COVID that are only available in a hospital setting,” said Gibney. “And so there is value, particularly in the older and people that have comorbidities, to monitor their own health more closely in terms of temperature, maybe check your heart rate, your breathing rates, and seriously think about getting a pulse oximeter.”

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