Ease COVID-19 Symptoms With This Breathing Technique
You may have seen the video below on breathing techniques for COVID-19 patients. In this video, Sarfaraz Munshi, a physician at the Queen’s Hospital in the UK, demonstrates how to help patients with COVID-19.
“If you have an active infection, you need to get enough air at the base of your lungs,” Munshi says in the video.
The breathing exercise he proposes is a well-established one that is beneficial for many conditions and helps to flush excess fluid from the lungs. It has also recently been used by J.K. Rowling and Christopher Cuomo to treat their symptoms.
Prolonged lying on your back increases your risk of pneumonia.
“This is a maneuver that can help with any condition that results in excess mucus,” says Albert Rizzo, MD and chief physician of the American Lung Association. This includes COVID-19 patients as symptoms include shortness of breath and pneumonia is a common complication.
As Munshi notes in the video, lying on your back in bed for extended periods of time increases your risk of pneumonia, which will worsen your condition.
“When you are sedentary for a long time, mucus lingers deep in your lungs,” says Rizzo.
Breathing Exercises Can Help Clear Your Lungs
To counteract this effect, Munshi suggests some breathing exercises that can help clear the lungs, which Rizzo also recommends as being beneficial.
“This is a good maneuver to help maximize the lungs’ ability to clear secretions,” says Rizzo.
Munshi’s summary advice is to take a series of deep breaths followed by a controlled cough. With each breath you breathe in, hold it for five seconds, then breathe out. On the sixth inhale, you inhale, hold your breath for five seconds, then cover your mouth and cough to clear your airways.
“The cough at the end mobilizes the discharge,” says Rizzo. “It loosens the mucus, moving the mucus to the center of the chest.”
Repeat this cycle one more time and then lie face down with a pillow in front of you and breathe deeply for ten minutes. It is also important not to spend too much time in the supine position as this obstructs the smaller airways.
“One caveat: you don’t want to do this quickly because you can hyperventilate and feel dizzy,” says Rizzo. “Do it the way you like.”
Lying on your stomach helps clear mucus
This last step – lying on your stomach with a pillow in front of you and inhaling deeply, known as postural drainage, works by allowing gravity to pull the mucus towards the center of your chest so you can cough it up. For patients who often lie on their back, there is a risk that all this mucus will collect in the lower part of the lungs, where it affects your breathing.