New Delhi: The Health Ministry on Wednesday came out with a recommendation on breathing exercise, pointing out that reduction in a person’s breath holding time is an early warning sign of the coronavirus.
Dr V K Paul, NITI Aayog member (health), said breathlessness has been the most common symptom in the second wave of Covid-19, which in turn has led to a greater need for oxygen.
The ministry also quotes Dr Arvind Kumar, Chairman, Institute of Chest Surgery, Medanta Founder and Managing Trustee, Lung Care Foundation, who says that 90% of Covid-19 patients experience some lung involvement, but it is not clinically significant. Ten to 12 percent of people develop pneumonia, a lung infection in which alveoli, the tiny air sacs in our lungs, gets inflamed. A very small proportion of Covid-19 patients need oxygen support, when shortness of breath progresses to a more acute condition, he underlined.
Dr Arvind recommends the breathing exercise as extremely beneficial for patients with mild symptoms. “If these patients practise the exercise, chances of their supplemental oxygen requirement are reduced. If the breath-holding time starts decreasing, this is an early warning sign and the patient should consult his/her doctor. On the other hand, if a patient is able to increase their breath holding time gradually, it is positive sign.”
Dr Arvind recommends the exercise for both the hospitalised patients and those discharged but are still on oxygen at home, and also for healthy people to keep their lungs healthy.
How to do the exercise:
*Sit straight and keep your hands on your thighs.
*Open your mouth and suck in as much air as you can to fill your lungs.
*Close your lips tightly.
*Hold your breath for as long as you can.
*Check how many seconds you can hold your breath.
Patients can practise this once in an hour and gradually increase the breath holding time. Those with breath holding time of 25 seconds and above are considered to be in the safe zone. One must take care to not try too hard and get exhausted in the process.
Dr Arvind says the exercise will help in detecting the Covid-19 infections early. He says the most common symptoms in the first wave were fever and cough. In the second wave, there are a different set of symptoms such as sore throat, runny nose, redness in the eyes, headache, body pain, rashes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and fever that lasts three-four days. And, by the time the person takes the test and the results are given, a lot of times has lapsed in between So, by the time Covid is confirmed, the infection is almost five to six days old and in certain cases lungs are already affected.
Factors that determine lung involvement during Covid include age, weight, existing lung condition, diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, HIV infection, weakened immune system, smoking habits, history of cancer treatment and use of steroids, adds Dr Arvind.