Five tips to ease long Covid breathlessness at home
Long Covid victim discusses daily impact of virus
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While many people recover from COVID-19 in just a week or two, others take longer. It is thought around two million in the UK have experienced long Covid, leaving them with symptoms that can last weeks, months and even years. Although there is no cure, there are ways to help ease symptoms.
Feeling breathless is one symptom of both the initial infection and long Covid, which is also known as post-Covid syndrome.
A survey conducted by symptom checker platform Healthily in 2022 found that 48.5 percent of long Covid patients were experiencing respiratory issues such as breathlessness and a cough.
Other common complications reported by the 1,000 women in the survey were fatigue, low mood, brain fog and low sex drive.
Professor Maureen Baker, from Healthily, commented: “All of these symptoms can be debilitating and affect your daily life especially if you have multiple symptoms, and it can take weeks or months, or sometimes years to recover.”
With this in mind, Healthily shared five techniques you can use at home to ease breathlessness from long Covid.
Practise controlled breathing
“This can help you to relax and control your breathing,” it says.
Do this with the following steps:
- Start by sitting in a supported, comfortable position
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your tummy
- Shut your eyes and focus on your breathing
- Slowly breathe in through your nose (or mouth if you can’t), then out through your mouth – you should feel the hand on your tummy move more than the hand on your chest as you breathe.
Healthily adds: “Try to use as little effort as possible and make your breaths slow and smooth.”
Learn paced breathing
It says: “This is useful for activities that might make you breathless, such as climbing the stairs.”
The following techniques can help:
- Think about breaking the activity down into smaller parts (such as stopping halfway) to make it easier to carry out without getting tired or breathless
- Breathe in before you make the effort of the activity – before you climb up a step
- Breathe out while making the effort – climbing up a step
- Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth may also be useful.
Positions that can help ease breathlessness
- Lying on your stomach
- Lying on your side with your knees slightly bent and your head and neck supported by pillows
- Sitting at a table and leaning forward from your waist, with your head and neck resting on pillows.
Breathe a rectangle
Healthily explains: “Look for a rectangle shape, such as a door or a window frame.
“Then follow the sides of the rectangle with your eyes as you breathe in and out.
“You should gradually slow down the speed so that your eyes move around the rectangle, pausing at each corner.”
Cooling the face
It adds: “Wipe a cold flannel over your nose and upper cheeks.
“Cooling your face around your nose can help to reduce feelings of breathlessness.”
Other symptoms of long Covid include:
- Loss of smell
- Muscle aches
- Chest pain or tightness
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- Heart palpitations
- Pins and needles
- Joint pain
- Depression and anxiety
- Tinnitus, earaches
- Feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
- A high temperature, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
If you think you have long Covid see your GP for advice on easing the symptoms.
They might also be able to refer you to an appropriate specialist or clinic.
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