Recovery from lung inflammation caused by COVID-19 disease may take several weeks or months. Older people in particular, whose respiratory muscles are weak, may suffer from very slow recovery, especially when lung function is impeded by the additional factors such as waist obesity or chronic heart or lung disease.
According to the recommendations of the American researchers, hospitalization and need for intensive care can be prevented by respiratory muscle training; even five days of effective training can produce beneficial effects. Gas exchange capacity of the lungs is better exploited and the tendency to fatigue of the respiratory muscles is reduced.
Breathing training has also been shown to be helpful for recovery from the COVID-19 disease. According to peer reviewed Chinese clinical study, respiratory rehabilitation improved lung function in the COVID-19 convalescents over 65 years of age significantly more and faster than in the controls who received conventional treatment without respiratory training. Also, physical performance and quality of life improved and anxiety relieved in the rehabilitation group.
Breathing exercises are usually performed with the devices which train both ex- and inspiratory muscles by resisting airflow. In asthma, COPD and waist obesity, combined ex- and inspiratory exercise is the most effective. Concurrent inhalation of warm steam also via nose strengthens mucosal membranes in the upper airways and presumably improves defence capability against invading viruses at the same time.
Recently published experimental study reported that the infectivity of the Sars-cov-2 virus in artificial nasal mucosa was significantly reduced when the temperature and relative humidity of the environment was increased. Instead, the cooler and dryer environment extended infectivity of the virus.
Apparently, it is beneficial for the people at risk of the COVID-19 disease to perform regular respiratory trainings which improve fitness of the respiratory system and reduce likelihood of the severe forms of the disease. Also, concurrent inhalation of steam may reduce the probability of the infection.
Also, recovery from the COVID-19 lung disease can be accelerated with breathing exercises. Now, when the COVID-19 pandemic is still active, these self-performed methods which improve respiratory health should be emphasised and taken in use.
Professor Emeritus of Clinical Physiology, Helsinki
Chief Physician of the Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care, Essote, Mikkeli
Specialist in Occupational Health Care and General Medicine, Iisalmi
This opinion piece was originally published in Helsingin Sanomat 10.11.2020: https://www.hs.fi/hyvinvointi/art-2000007610284.html
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