CNA asked some medical professionals how people can manage such post-COVID symptoms:
COUGH AND WHEEZING
Physiotherapist Jaclyn Chow said that inflammation in the cells infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus can persist even after one tests negative, leading to lingering symptoms like a cough, airway sensitivity and discomfort in the upper respiratory tract.
If the cough is leading to sleeplessness or discomfort, cough medication can help to relieve the symptom. Pharmacists or doctors can recommend the appropriate medicine based on the cause of the cough, its duration and other clinical signs such as fever or muscle ache, said community pharmacist Shawn Lee.
In most cases, cough mixtures given at the clinic are similar to what is sold at retail pharmacies, said Mr Lee, a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore. But note that these medicines do not cure the viral infection, he added.
If the patient coughs more when lying down, it could be caused by watery mucus dripping down the back of the throat. In such cases, consider sleeping with an additional pillow to prop up the head or take an antihistamine, which is typically used for runny nose.
A good way to manage breathlessness is to make sure one is breathing well.
Ms Chow said that some people develop a different breathing pattern after COVID-19, and start breathing with their mouth as their nose was blocked.
But breathing through the nose warms and moistens the air, while air breathed through the mouth can be “more of an irritant”. Breathing through the nose also produces nitric oxide, which opens up the airways.
For people who are mouth breathers, she will first train them to go back to nasal breathing.
She will also make sure that they are breathing using their diaphragm rather than their upper chest. Diaphragmatic breathing is more efficient and leads to less fatigue, she said.
Posture is important as hunching limits the flexibility of one’s chest walls, and one’s breathing capacity. Chest stretches can help with this.
Improving posture can add up to 50ml of air per breath, or about 10 per cent of one’s usual air intake, said Ms Chow.
When patients start breathing better, she recommends exercises to help them regain stamina. Using one’s muscles increases oxidative capacity, or their ability to use oxygen, she added.
There can be many factors leading to fatigue but breathing exercises can help some patients deal with this, said Ms Chow.
A patient who breathes at a fast rate lowers the carbon dioxide level in their blood, causing narrowing of airways and blood vessels. If the level is far too low, it can limit blood flow to the brain causing headaches, fatigue and dizziness.
“We try to slow the breathing rate … so that you can reverse the blood vessels narrowing, the airways narrowing and that helps with the symptoms of fatigue, if the cause is a breathing pattern disorder,” she said.