The number of COVID-19 cases reported Canada-wide seems to have plateaued over the last several weeks, according to data compiled by But as provinces remove more of their pandemic-related restrictions, such as masking in public spaces and gathering limits, experts say this will likely lead to increased transmission of COVID-19.

“The whole point of masking and all the public health measures is to prevent people from catching COVID,” Dr. Christopher Labos, a cardiologist and epidemiologist based in Montreal, told in a phone interview on Tuesday. “It’s the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Amid the ongoing risk of becoming infected, Canadians may be wondering how to go about treating themselves, should they catch COVID-19. Access to PCR testing remains limited across different provinces, and rapid antigen tests are seemingly less sensitive against the predominant Omicron variant. Still, certain symptoms serve as common indicators of COVID-19 infection. They generally include a runny nose, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath, a body temperature equal to or above 38 C, fatigue and body aches, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), although symptoms can vary from person to person.

While certain groups may be more likely to experience severe cases of COVID-19 infection, such as those over the age of 60 and anyone who is immunocompromised, most people who have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are likely to experience mild disease that doesn’t require hospital treatment, experts say.

Still, even as restrictions continue to be lifted, it’s important to remember that COVID-19 isn’t gone, said Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency room physician based in Toronto.

“What happened with the removal of some of the pandemic measures was that people got the idea that it's gone… but it's still out there,” he told in a phone interview on Tuesday. “And it still can be dangerous to you.”

Here are some steps to take if you become infected with COVID-19, according to infectious disease experts, including how to treat yourself at home:


For anyone who has been diagnosed with or tested positive for COVID-19, they are advised by PHAC to self-isolate, regardless of whether they have symptoms. This also applies to those with COVID-19-like symptoms who previously came into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

“The most important thing, really, is for you to self-isolate and essentially eliminate the number of people that you come into contact with so that the virus doesn't continue to spread,” said Labos.

Ideally, people should aim to self-isolate in a room where they are separated from everyone they may be living with, Pirzada said. If space is limited and this may not be possible, Pirzada also suggests that everyone at home wear N95 masks to limit further transmission of the virus.

“A lot of people live in one or two-bedroom apartments or condos, so the space isn't there,” he told in a phone interview on Tuesday. “That's when you have to be careful, especially if you have immunocompromised [or] elderly people in your families that need protection.”


For those with mild symptoms, Labos recommends using over-the-counter medications at the appropriate dosage, such as acetaminophen (recognized by the brand name Tylenol) or ibuprofen (known as Advil), to treat the fever that often comes with COVID-19 infection. A cough syrup and decongestant medicine can also help keep any coughing or nasal congestion at bay. These tools don’t necessarily attack the virus, but they can help relieve some of the discomfort it causes, Labos said.

“It's really just a lot of the stuff that you use for a regular cold that’s designed to make you feel better,” he said. “It's about treating the symptoms of the virus rather than actually treating the virus itself.”

Plenty of fluids and healthy foods are also important to avoid becoming dehydrated, said Dr. Dale Kalina, an infectious disease doctor at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington, Ont.

“The body's fighting something off,” he told in a phone interview Tuesday. “So extra protein and extra fluid are going to allow the body to use that extra energy that it needs to fight off the infection.”

Pirzada also suggests using an air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filter to help remove any viral particles that might enter the air when breathing. These devices can be purchased online or made at home using a box fan and furnace filters, he said. If not easily accessible, Pirzada recommends opening a window, if possible, as this can also help improve ventilation.

Having a pulse oximeter at home would also be useful to calculate the amount of oxygen in a person’s blood without having to draw a blood sample, Pirzada said. If oxygen levels fall below 95 per cent, that would be a sign to visit the hospital, he said.

“It’s important to check everyday because let's say if your immunity from the vaccine is wearing out… your oxygen levels can drop,” he said. “That's a good thing to check to know when to go to hospital.”

Thermometers, tissues and hand sanitizer are other supplies often recommended to keep at home while experiencing a COVID-19 infection. Finally, although it won’t hurt to take vitamin supplements, there’s no evidence to suggest that they will be helpful in combatting COVID-19, said Kalina.


While treatment options do exist for those infected with COVID-19, they are often reserved for people with severe illness who find themselves in need of hospital care, said Labos.

“Things like steroids, intravenous antiviral drugs [and] other more advanced therapies are usually only given in hospital because the benefit has been seen only in the sickest people,” he said.

In January, Paxlovid became the first at-home COVID-19 prescription medication approved for use in Canada. The antiviral treatment is an oral medication used to treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, and can only be administered by prescription to adults aged 18 and older. However, its limited supply in Canada has meant that it is being reserved for use by high-risk patients, often those who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised, Labos said. As a result, it not yet widely available to the general population.

When it comes to treating COVID-19 in those with mild infections, not much can be done aside from supportive care, said Labos.

“The reality is that for the vast majority of people who get sick with COVID, if they have mild symptoms, the only thing they really can do is stay home, ride out the illness, and wait for their system to essentially clear it so that they're no longer infectious,” said Labos.

For anyone concerned about their symptoms, Kalina advises that they consult their health-care provider, who may suggest medications that can be taken to relieve symptoms.


It’s key to continue monitoring for symptoms after they first begin to appear, said Labos. According to PHAC, people may start experiencing symptoms from one to 14 days after initial exposure to the virus, with symptoms generally appearing between three and seven days after exposure.

Different provincial governments have different requirements for self-isolating after exposure to COVID-19. In Ontario, residents are expected to quarantine for at least five or 10 days, depending on their vaccination status, and must continue isolating if symptoms haven’t improved or if they continue to have a fever. Residents of British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec must all follow similar protocols. In Nova Scotia, however, the requirement is to self-isolate for seven days from the onset of symptoms, regardless of vaccination status.

Overall, experts recommend that those who have tested positive for COVID-19 wait at least seven to 10 before ending their self-isolation period, regardless of whether they are vaccinated. This is to avoid unintentionally infecting anyone they may come into contact with after recovery, Labos said.

“I would say give it at least a good week to make sure your symptoms have completely resolved, and then you can be relatively confident that the virus has left your system,” he said.


If your symptoms begin to get worse, you should immediately contact your health-care provider or local public health authority about next steps.

For those experiencing severe symptoms, they should call 911 and seek urgent medical care, according to PHAC. These symptoms include chest pain or pressure, the onset of confusion, and most importantly, difficulty breathing or severe shortness of breath.

“If you have trouble breathing at any point while you're infected, that's a sign you need to go to hospital,” said Pirzada. “If you notice that your fingers are turning blue or your lips are turning blue [and] you’re getting winded doing basic activities… those are all signs that something is seriously wrong. You're not having a mild infection, you need to go to hospital.”


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