- President Trump is taking several over-the-counter medications and supplements, in addition to steroids and other drugs, as he undergoes treatment for COVID-19, according to his doctors.
- One of these, such as vitamin D, is supported by some evidence suggesting it could help bolster the immune system, particularly for people who are deficient in the nutrient.
- But there’s no clear evidence that supplements like zinc, melatonin, antacids, and aspirin are specifically useful for treating coronavirus infections.
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President Donald Trump continues to be closely monitored and treated for COVID-19 since leaving hospital Monday, according to White House doctors. In addition to his extensive list of medications and treatments, including steroids, antivirals, and antibodies, the president is also taking several supplements and over-the-counter medications.
These include vitamin D, zinc, an antacid called famotidine, melatonin, and aspirin, according to the president’s doctors.
Although it’s unclear which of these, if any, are specifically part of his coronavirus treatment, there’s some evidence each of them could have some role in fighting COVID-19. Here’s the science behind how each of them works and how they might help treat coronavirus infections.
There’s some evidence vitamin D can reduce the risk of severe coronavirus infection
Researchers have been studying vitamin D in relation to the coronavirus for months, and multiple studies have shown that a deficiency of the nutrient is linked to higher risk of severe COVID-19.
While the findings are somewhat contentious, since researchers don’t fully understand if vitamin D supplements can cause better health outcomes, extensive evidence has linked vitamin D deficiency to greater risk of infection, particularly from respiratory diseases like COVID-19.
And many people are deficient in vitamin D, especially while sheltering indoors during the pandemic or in darker winter months, since our bodies naturally produce the nutrient in response to sunlight.
People with darker skin may be particularly susceptible, since melanin can slow the process of producing vitamin D. As a result, there’s evidence certain people could benefit from supplementing it.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recommends taking vitamin D at the moment, and said he does so himself.
Zinc is important for immune health, but there’s no science showing it specifically helps with COVID-19
There’s some data that zinc, a mineral necessary for human health, may help shorten the duration of some infections such as the common cold. Research has also shown it’s important for immune system health generally.
But so far, there’s no specific studies showing that zinc can treat or improve outcomes in patients with COVID-19.
Antacids like famotidine may reduce risk, but the evidence is poor
Famotidine (commonly known as Pepcid) is an over-the-counter treatment for heartburn and indigestion that works by reducing the amount of acid the stomach produces.
There’s a little evidence is could benefit COVID-19 patients, with one (not-yet-peer-reviewed) pre-print from September 30 showing it may help reduce mortality rates. The systematic review from researchers in New Delhi, India, found that, of 2,643 patients across five studies, those that received famotidine (312 total) were significantly less likely to die or require intensive care.
However, the authors acknowledge that the evidence so far is “low quality.” More research, such as randomised controlled trials, is needed to show whether famotidine may be an effective treatment aid for coronavirus infections.
Aspirin may help prevent blood clotting and reduce inflammation
The common over-the-counter pain reliever aspirin has been explored as a means of treating coronavirus infections because it can help reduce inflammation and risk of blood clots, both of which have been linked to severe COVID-19 complications.
A clinical trial was launched last spring to study the potential for using aspirin as a treatment for coronavirus, but no results have yet been posted.
As a result, there’s currently no data on its effectiveness.
Melatonin is a natural remedy for sleeplessness
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body to help regulate sleep cycles. The body produces more of it at night, to help us become sleepy at bedtime.
Synthetic or lab-produced melatonin is sometimes used as a dietary supplement to help treat insomnia, particularly in cases where a person’s internal clock has been disrupted, such jet lag or night shift work.
There’s no specific evidence on whether melatonin influences coronavirus outcomes. What we do know, however, is that good sleep is crucial for a healthy immune system, and that means 7-9 hours a night for most people.
Just one night of poor sleep can reduce your immune cells by as much as 70%, research shows.