Dr Karthiyayini Mahadevan, head, wellness and well-being, Columbia Pacific Communities, a firm that develops senior living communities in India, shares simple, useful tips to fully recover from COVID-19.
Although most people with COVID-19 get better within a few weeks, some patients experience post-COVID conditions, similar to post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and experts around the world are working to learn more about the short and long-term health effects of COVID-19.
Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions:
1. What are some of the signs and health implications that indicate you have COVID-19 infection?
COVID-19-infected people can show symptoms or remain asymptomatic. Individuals who are asymptomatic are silent carriers.
Symptomatic people can have mild symptoms of myalgia or moderate symptoms of fever, sore throat, loss of smell, taste, abdominal pain and reduced appetite.
There can also be severe symptoms, which are generally seen after the seventh day with happy hypoxia which presents as exhaustion, headache and sleepiness with low oxygen levels.
2. How long does the infection last?
The infection lasts for a period of seven to 10 days in mild to moderate cases.
In severely-affected individuals the infection lasts for over two to three weeks with the need for oxygen support.
3. Why are there varied manifestations with COVID-19 infection?
From the first few days up to the seventh day, the virus replicates in the host and the subsequent symptoms are the cascade of reactions of the host to the virus.
The recovery from the infection varies with the severity of the infection.
4. If an individual gets COVID-19 after vaccination, what should s/he do?
COVID-19 infection can occur after the first dose of vaccination or even after the second dose.
Individuals are susceptible to COVID infections even four to six weeks after the second dose of vaccination.
Again, the symptoms seen are varied depending upon the viral load.
The most important rule one must adhere to is to wear masks, maintain social distancing and hand hygiene even after vaccinations.
There are cases reported even after eight weeks of vaccination, but the clinical symptoms are moderate and recovery happens without much of a setback in existing health.
5. Once you are infected with COVID-19, what is the recovery time?
In about 10 days from being tested positive, individuals turn symptom-free if it is a mild to moderate infection.
If it is severe, it takes about four to eight weeks.
6. What are the health setbacks that occur after a COVID-19 infection?
The health setbacks depend on the viral load and host reactions.
There are different post-COVID conditions which are long COVID, multi-organ effects, effects of treatment and hospitalisation.
At the physical level: Exertional cough and breathing difficulty due to reduced lung capacity and residual damage caused to the alveolar sacs, disturbed digestive system due to disturbed gut flora, disturbed biological rhythm like insomnia, due to prolonged ICU stays and general exhaustion and malaise.
At the emotional level: Fear and anxiety causing various phobias, obsessive compulsive behaviour and depression.
At the mental level: Difficulty in making decisions, discrimination and less clarity in thoughts.
7. How can we address these setbacks?
At the physical level:
A. Breathing difficulties can be managed by trying different positions while lying down and when seated. This includes:
- High side lying
- Forward lean sitting
- Standing with back support
There are various breathing techniques taught to regain lung capacity. These are:
Pranayama for efficient breathing
- Sit comfortably with a straight back, observe inhalation and exhalation. Start observing the transition between inhalation and exhalation and between exhalation and inhalation over five breaths.
- Now start counting the inhalation and exhalation within your normal range of breath. Normal physiological breath has exhalation longer than inhalation over five breaths.
- First exhale through both nostrils. Close the right nostril, inhale through the left nostril then close the left nostril, breathe out through the partially opened right nostril. Do this five times.
- Then take five breaths — inhale and exhale through both nostrils.
- Exhale through both nostrils. Close the left nostril and inhale through the right nostril, then close the right nostril, exhale through the partially opened left nostril. Do this five times.
- Then take five breaths — Inhale and exhale through both nostrils.
- Exhale through both nostrils. To start with, close the right nostril and inhale from the left nostril and then close the left nostril, exhale through the partially opened right nostril, then keeping the left nostril closed, inhale through the right nostril and close the right nostril and exhale through the partially opened left nostril. This is one cycle. Repeat five cycles.
- Then take five breaths — inhale and exhale through both nostrils. This time try and count the inhalation and exhalation. By regular practise of this breathing technique, breathing becomes efficient and exhalation becomes longer than inhalation.
Paced breathing: Breathe in before the activity through the nose. Breathe out during the activity through the mouth.
Pursed lip breathing: Inhale slowly through the nose within your normal range and pucker your lips and exhale through the mouth.
Segmental breathing: Place the hands on the upper part of the chest, breathe in within your normal range deliberately through the nose and breathe out through the mouth.
Now place hands on the sides of the chest and repeat the same way.
Place the arms across the chest to keep the hands over opposite shoulder and repeat the same way.
B. Physical exercises to rehabilitate the rib cage and spine for efficient respiration
- Breathe in through the nose as you raise the hands, breathe out through the mouth as you bring the hands down.
- Clasp your hands behind your head, breathe in through the nose as you move your elbows away and breathe out through the mouth as you bring the elbows together.
- Breathe in through the nose as you raise your arms above your head and breathe out through the mouth as you bring your arms down.
C. Incentive Spirometer
This is a device that helps maintain and increase lung capacity.
If this device cannot be procured, another simple way to do this is to hold a glass full of water and place a straw over the top of the water and start breathing out through the straw to make streams of bubbles through the surface of the water. Each time try and see for how long you can breathe out.
D. Physical exercises to improve flexibility, stamina, balance and coordination.
E. Aerobic exercises: Walking short distances with a slow pace within a short time duration and slowly increasing the pace and duration of the walk with an interval of a few days.
F. Diet: Balanced nutrition in the right quantity, quality and at the right time to be taken for tissue repairs.
Macronutrients consisting of complex carbohydrates, adequate protein through pulses, sprouted lentils and moderate fats through nuts and seeds will meet the energy demand for recuperation and tissue repairs.
Micronutrients through fresh fruits, salads will provide the essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements for healing.
Eating closer to the sunset, thereby abiding with our ancient wisdom of eating with the sun rhythm ir circadian rhythm, helps to bring in good quality of sleep.
At the emotional level
- Working with any art media such as painting, drawing, creative writing, playing instruments, clay modelling, dramatics and dance can help bring out overwhelming emotions in a healthy way.
- Seeking professional help through a psychologist will help address the deep hidden fears and anxiety.
- Connect with people particularly with those friends who were affected and share positive ideas towards the healing process.
At the mental level
- Reading stories, autobiographies of those who have succeeded in life will help the mind to perceive life positively.
- Neurobic exercises, particularly in consultation with a neurologist, will empower your memory if it has been disturbed due to the hypoxic insult.
- Learning new skills through online sessions such as a new language, chanting, meditation and mindful movements will help to bring in clarity in thinking.
Any pandemic, if seen as a whole, brings in a shift in the global consciousness. It brings about a major paradigm shift in the way one looks at life.
Losing loved ones and seeing deaths in large numbers brings in an attitude of gratefulness and humility.
So, behind this whole pandemic there is a rising consciousness which is shifting the human evolution to another milestone. This is the post-COVID inner shift.
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