After being diagnosed with COVID-19 on Oct. 2, President Donald Trump received several treatments while under the care of medical staff at the White House, including an experimental antibody cocktail, as well as a regimen of over-the-counter medications and supplements, including zinc, vitamin D, aspirin, and melatonin. While melatonin is best known for helping to regulate sleep — something that can be difficult to come by when you’re fighting off a virus that frequently causes a high fever — it may play a very different role in combatting COVID-19.
While COVID-19 is often thought of as a respiratory virus, scientists have argued that it should be treated as an acute inflammatory disease, in which the severity of the symptoms is determined by the body’s ability to regulate its own immune response. One of the most dangerous outcomes is something doctors call a “cytokine storm,” in which the immune system continues releasing proteins called cytokines — which signal immune cells to mount a response — long after the threat of the virus has been neutralized. Without a clear target, the immune cells attack healthy tissues, causing damage to the body’s organs. In some cases, it can be fatal.
There’s some early evidence that melatonin may help regulate the immune system, by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, among other mechanisms. However, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about what role the supplement might play in treating the virus, and how it should be taken in order for it to be both safe and effective. If you’re infected with COVID-19, it’s important to speak with a doctor before taking anything to help manage your symptoms.
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.