According to a FIRS report, respiratory diseases is the leading cause of death and disability in the world at large and around 4 million people die prematurely from chronic respiratory disease globally.
By Dr. Jaideep Gogtay,
The lung is a delicate organ and despite that knowledge we are inclined to be indifferent towards it. As gateways for breathing life into us, the lung is exposed to numerous external factors such as microorganisms, allergens and pollutants which cause illnesses including respiratory infections, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD among others). COVID has exposed the neglect towards caring for the lungs. According to a FIRS report, respiratory diseases is the leading cause of death and disability in the world at large and around 4 million people die prematurely from chronic respiratory disease globally. This number has been accelerated due to COVID.
As an expert in the industry that has seen the pandemic unfold from close quarters, we now know that while most patients who develop COVID recover within 2-3 weeks, there are many whose’ recovery extends beyond a few weeks. This condition wherein symptoms may last beyond 8-12 weeks has been called different names of which the most commonly used is ‘long covid’. In long covid people continue to experience extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, mental clouding, inability to concentrate, sleep disturbances, palpitations and headache.
Special attention needed in case of underlying diseases such as asthma, COPD and other lung problems
The presence of underlying lung diseases not only weakens the lungs capacity to fight against the COVID virus, but also makes it more difficult for them to recover and recuperate post COVID. Thus, for those with such conditions, it is important to pay special attention during their post-covid recovery. Right from the intake of a nutritious diet to lung asanas, individuals should make sure to take enough rest both mentally and physically to avoid burnout and fatigue.
Apart from that, chest exercises using a hand-held spirometer/respirometer or pulmonary exercises on a regular basis can help strengthen the lung. For patients with lung fibrosis wherein lung tissues are scarred causing breathlessness, a pulmonologist must be consulted to undertake an appropriate treatment programme. And finally, with everyone being at home and working out of a bed, dining table or for some a study table, our posture can also affect the breathing and functioning of the lung. Since the lungs are soft structures, they take up the room that is made for them to function and this is where good posture comes in play. Most importantly, a patient recovering from COVID needs to listen to their body and understand its limits – be it in terms of re-organising life to return to normal or re-starting their routine where they left off.
Lung care for individuals with long-covid symptoms
Most people who have been infected with COVID recover completely within a few weeks. But for some, even those who have had mild versions of the disease, continue to experience symptoms after their initial recovery. These people are described as “long haulers” and the condition has been called “Long COVID-19.” According to a study by The State of the Art Review, Fatigue is one of the most-reported manifestations in long covid. Along with that, breathlessness, anxiety or depression, sleeplessness are some of the other reported symptoms. Another study by Lancet, mentions that COVID-19 survivors are also at an increased risk of psychiatric outcomes, and new-onset respiratory and cardiovascular disease during recovery. While understanding the underlying mechanisms of long covid are still underway, treatment should be administered by evaluating symptoms on a case-to-case basis. In these cases, a multi-disciplinary treatment course from a holistic perspective should be taken. Making sure to have plenty of rest, adequate fluids and avoiding indulging in harmful habits can help the lungs and other organs recover from the impact of the virus.
It is imperative to remember that while we do understand the significance of the lung, what we often neglect is to give it the care and attention it deserves. After all, breathing is the essence of life. And to live a life with good health, our most vital yet delicate organ must be treated with utmost care not just now, but during each and every one of our waking, breathing moments.
(The author is Global Chief Medical Officer at Cipla. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult medical experts and health professionals before starting any therapy, medication and/or remedy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)