Respiratory Illness Home Care Recommendations

Home care usually eases symptoms of a respiratory illness. Unfortunately, there is no quick treatment. Antibiotics only work against bacterial infections such as strep throat, they don’t work on viruses such as a cold, flu, or COVID-19. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need it means you may build up a resistance and it may not work as well when you do need it.

If you have a cough:

  1. Drink extra liquids, about 8 ounces every 2 hours
  2. Quit smoking and stay away from other people who do smoke
  3. Take cough syrup that has dextromethorphan (such as Robitussin DM)
  4. Add moisture to the room by using a cool mist humidifier or vaporizer
  5. If you cough continues for more than 2 weeks, contact your provider’s office

If you have a fever:

  1. Drink extra liquids, about 8 ounces every 2 hours
  2. Wear light clothing and rest
  3. Take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen
  4. A fever usually gets better in 3 days. If your fever is 100.5 for 3 days in a row, or you have a fever and sore throat or cough, call your provider’s office

If you have sinus problems:

  1. Drink extra liquids, about 8 ounces every 2 hours
  2. Quit smoking and stay away from other people who do smoke
  3. Breathe moist, warm air. You can take a warm bath, shower, or use a humidifier
  4. Use salt-water nose drops (dissolve 1/4 salt and a pinch of baking soda in 1 cup of warm water) Put 2-3 drops in each nostril while you tilt your head back and then blow your nose gently
  5. Take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen for pain. A warm washcloth on your forehead can also help
  6. You may use an over the counter decongestant nasal spray (such as Afrin) for no more than 3 days because your symptoms may worsen
  7. Nasal drainage can last 2 weeks or more. If the nasal discharge stays yellow or green for 10 or more days, or your symptoms improve then get worse, call your provider’s office

If you have a sore throat:

  1. Drink extra liquids, about 8 ounces every 2 hours
  2. Quit smoking and stay away from other people who do smoke
  3. Gargle 4 to 6 times a day with salt water (1/4 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 1 cup of warm water)
  4. Suck on hard candies, lozenges, or cough drops
  5. Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) may help with pain
  6. Sore throats usually improve in 4 days. If symptoms don’t improve or get worse, call your provider’s office

If you develop severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, persistent abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, confusion, new persistent headache with fever or severe weakness please seek emergency care.