Post Covid Syndrome vs. Shortness of Breath

Defeating the coronavirus can be the start of the battle for COVID-19 patients. People with serious symptoms of the virus can be dealing with problems for years even after the recovery. COVID-19 is mainly a respiratory disease of the lungs which comprise of air sacs where the fluid is filled, restricting their capacity to absorb oxygen which finally leads to symptoms like shortness of breath, cough etc. Dr A Raghu Kanth, Senior Pulmonologist at Medicover Hospitals shares how COVID-19 affects the lungs and what the path to recovery looks like.

Shortness of Breath Problems or Breathlessness - Post COVID-19 Recovery

The most frequent lung problem faced post COVID-19 recovery includes lung fibrosis. As there is initial lung damage caused it further leads to damaging of lungs due to which quality of life ultimately comes down. That is the swelling stage gives way to the fibrosis stage. This condition needs the support of home oxygenation even after discharge and recovery. In some cases, lung fibrosis might also affect the cardiac health of an individual causing Cor Pulmonale which happens as a problem of serious lung disorders.

General preventive measures for patients with pulmonary problems include stocking up medications and supplies for weeks in advance, avoid visiting crowded places and non-essential travel and by staying at home as much as possible. Avoiding smoking, paying attention to immunity levels and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is compulsory.

Dr. A Raghu Kanth, Senior Pulmonologist, explained “Medicover Hospitals have treated these patients who have returned with complications of lung fibrosis post COVID-19 recovery. Therefore, early interventions and follow-ups are very crucial to begin with medications in order to stop further progression”

Why am I short of breath?

It is very frequent for people with a respiratory disease for instance COVID, to feel breathless both during the acute phase of the disease and whilst recovering. Breathlessness could happen for lots of reasons but it could usually make people feel scared, anxious or begin to panic and might limit your daily activities.

What does breathlessness look like in day-to-day life?

  • Getting short of breath while walking up and down the stairs.

  • Finding it hard to go for a walk, and keep having to stop to ‘catch’ your breath.

  • Feeling that breathing is really difficult work and your shoulders are going up and down as you breathe.

  • You might find yourself getting tense and gripping things to help yourself feel less breathless.

  • You might feel like you have tightness in your chest.

What could I do to help get my breath at rest and during exercise?

It is crucial to remember:

  • We all get breathless with exercise which is challenging for us.

  • Getting short of breath with exercise is common.

There are a number of approaches you could use to help manage your breathlessness, including:

  • Pace and plan your activities, try not to rush or do things quickly. Try and sustain your energy and get a balance between activity and rest.

  • Choose the best time of the day to do specific activities and plan ahead, thinking about what you may require to do the task.

  • You might be able to break individual tasks down into smaller ones which are more manageable. It might be possible to spread the activities throughout the day or week and alternate lighter tasks with heavier ones.

  • Take rests before, during and after completing a task or job, frequent short rest periods are better than a few longer ones. The practice of resting before you become tired/ exhausted is very useful in helping to sustain your energy.

  • Do not overestimate what you could do. Try short bouts of exercise or tasks first and slowly build the frequency. It is easy to think you are fitter or healthy than you are and then overdo it.

  • Do not stop doing the things which are making you feel breathless. This could make the problem worse because your muscles will get weaker from not being used so you will then feel more breathless.

  • If you are using a walking aid, for example a stick or a frame, lean forward on it when you feel breathless. This could lower the work of the upper body and help you recover your breath quicker.

Top Tip

  • Try wiping a cool wet flannel on your nose and upper cheeks of your face as cooling the face particularly around the nose, could usually help lower the feeling of breathlessness. Using a fan is not suggested during the COVID outbreak due to the risk of spreading infection.

  • Be kind to yourself. You should expect to have some days which are better than, or worse than others. You will not always experience progression in a consistent manner. Do not compare today’s results to that of yesterday, or to how you were previous to your disease, or to other people.

Techniques to assist control your breathing

  • Using a breathing technique known as breathing control. This helps you to breathe gently with the least amount of effort and could help control your breathing while moving around and help recovery after activity.

  • Practice while you are sitting down to master the technique

    • Put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen or stomach.

    • Gradually breathe in and out through your nose, with your mouth closed. If this is too difficult, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. If you are relaxed, the air will reach low in your lungs. Your abdomen or stomach will move out against your hand. If your breathing is controlled, the hand on your chest will barely move.

    • When you breathe out, your abdomen will fall gently. Envisage all the tension in your body leaving as y u let the air out.

    • With every breath out, try to feel more relaxed and peaceful. Slowly try to breathe more slowly.

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