Treating early symptoms of the virus?

All of us know what it is like to get sick with a “Cold or Flu” – we feel awful and usually get some of these signs or symptoms;

• Sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, headaches
• Sore Throat and cough
• Aches and pain, tiredness
• Tight chest or difficulty breathing

COVID-19 is a little different though;

1. Cough and fever are common
2. Sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, headaches, breathing problems, tiredness, aches and pain occur sometimes.
3. But diarrhoea (rare) and sneezing (no!) are not common.

Importantly, stopping the spread of any virus is the best way to stop disease and we can stop the spread of COVID-19 by;

1. Wash hands regularly – soap and water are just fine.
2. Stay at home if unwell and stay 1.5 meters away from other people
3. Cover coughs and sneezes
4. Avoid touching face, nose and mouth (because the virus gets in that way!)

And remember – if you develop fever, sore throat, breathing problems, aches and pain then you must contact your doctor or phone The COVID-19 help line on 1800 020 080

Still, there are some things that we can do to manage cold and flu symptoms and treat any viral infection ourselves – especially in the early stages of the “cold and flu” viruses.

Fever, headaches, aches and pain

• Take paracetamol or Ibuprofen – check with your doctor or pharmacist for how much to take because people with heart, kidney or liver problems should have their dose reduced (or not take ibuprofen at all)

Tiredness and fatigue

• Simple, just get some rest!

Sneezing, runny or stuffy nose

• Nasal decongestants (Phenylephrine tablets or sprays), antihistamines (for sneezing), and nasal rinses will help remove mucous.

Cough and breathing problems (minor)

• Cough mixtures (see your pharmacist for the right one here)
• People with asthma, chronic bronchitis or COPD may notice that any cold or flu infection can trigger breathing problems which can make cough worse – you should consult your doctor about an action plan (Step-wise) with your inhaler medicines, first.

Sore Throat – Povidone Iodine (1%)

• Reduces the viral load in the nose, mouth, throat and oropharynx (1, 2).
• As a gargle/mouthwash is very effective against enveloped viruses such as corona-virus (SARS-CoV, MERSCoV) and influenza virus (1, 2).
• Was effective against SARS-CoV and MERSCoV in laboratory testing (3, 4) .

Could we use Povidone Iodine as a sore throat gargle against COVID-19?

Firstly, the disease called COVID-19 is caused by the corona-virus SARS-CoV-2 which is a new type of human corona-virus.

Secondly, SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus and so in theory – Yes, we could use Povidone Iodine (mouth gargle and nasal ointment) because of its broad effectiveness against corona-viruses, generally. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t develop COVID-19.

There are also some limitations to using Povidone Iodine;

1. Don’t use if you have allergy or hypersensitivity to iodine
2. Don’t use if you have history of thyroid problems (Goitre or Hashimoto’s disease)
3. People with kidney problems may need medical supervision.
4. Do not swallow the gargle.
5. Use as directed and for up to 5 days.
6. May cause local irritation

Remember one thing though – this is not ordinary virus, you should not rely on over the counter medicines alone, and you should get checked out by your doctor first.

More Importantly, if you suddenly develop cough, fever, sore throat and any breathing problems at the same time – go straight to hospital.

Emmanuel Pippos, Consultant Pharmacist.


1. Eggers M, Koburger-Janssen T, Eickmann M, Zorn J. In vitro bactericidal and virucidal efficacy of Povidone-Iodine gargle/mouthwash against respiratory and oral tract pathogens. Infectious diseases and therapy. 2018;7(2):249-59.
2. Eggers M. Infectious Disease Management and Control with Povidone Iodine. Infectious diseases and therapy. 2019:1-13.
3. Kampf G, Todt D, Pfaender S, Steinmann E. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and its inactivation with biocidal agents. Journal of Hospital Infection. 2020.
4. Up to Date – Wolters Kluwer Health, [Internet]. Wolters Kluwer Health. 2020 [cited 01/01/2020]. Available from:


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