Tips on managing COVID-19 at home
With the recent rise in COVID-19 infection numbers, more and more people are being forced to care for themselves at home. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue and muscle weakness can be scary to deal with yourself. Here are some practical tips to help you manage your illness at home.
Positioning is an easy and safe form of home therapy you can do by yourself. The position in which you lie can influence your oxygen levels.
Many COVID positive patients experience an increase in their oxygen levels when lying on their stomachs (prone lying). This is because this position helps the base of your lungs expand fully, thus allowing more oxygen intake. Try putting a pillow under your pelvis and resting your head on your arms to make this position more comfortable.
Another position that has been shown to be beneficial to oxygen levels is side lying.
It is encouraged to continuously change the position in which you lie. Changing positions can help improve the distribution of oxygen throughout your lungs, change and direct airflow in your lungs, help move secretions in your lungs to bigger airways so that you can clear them, as well as help keep your skin safe from pressure sores developing.
It is recommended that you change your position every 20-30 minutes from right side lying, to prone lying to left side lying, to sitting or standing up.
There are certain positions you can take to ease your breathlessness. In each of these positions remember to try and control your breathing by taking slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. These positions include:
- Sitting in a chair, leaning forward, with your forearms rested on your thighs.
- Standing at a chair or table, and resting your forearms on the table.
- Sitting in front of a table and resting your arms, chest and head onto the table. Place some pillows under your arms and head for comfort.
You can use these techniques to try and improve your breathing when you are feeling short of breath and anxious.
- Relax your shoulders and your neck
- Take a slow breath in through your nose allowing the air to fill your lungs
- Breathe gently and slowly out through pursed lips
- Repeat this a few times
Breathe a rectangle
- Find a comfortable position and look for a rectangle shape in the room, for example a door.
- Move around the sides of the rectangle with your eyes, breathing in on the short sides and out on the long sides.
It is important to try and practice breathing exercises every hour to help keep your lungs strong and clear secretions built up in your lungs. Try these exercises at home.
- In a seated position, place your hand on your stomach, just below your sternum.
- Relax your shoulders and neck completely.
- Breathe in through your nose aiming to get your stomach to rise with each inhale.
- Exhale through your mouth.
- If you battle to achieve this in sitting, try doing it lying on your back
- In a seated position relax your shoulders and neck completely.
- Take a deep breathe in through your nose trying to push your ribcage out to the side.
- Exhale through your mouth.
- If you battle to achieve this in sitting, try doing it lying on your back.
- Repeat this 3-4 times
Managing a dry cough
A dry cough is one of the most commonly reported symptoms for covid-19. Here are some strategies to manage a dry cough:
- Stay well hydrated.
- Take small sips when drinking something.
- If you do not have a drink on hand but can’t stop coughing, swallow repeatedly as if you are drinking something. This can help stop the coughing.
Keep in touch with your doctor
If you are managing COVID-19 at home, it is encouraged to give your GP a call (DON’T GO INTO THEIR ROOMS!) to make them aware of your symptoms and your oxygen levels. This way your GP will be able to advise you on management, as well as make decisions on whether your treatment needs to be escalated.
Physiotherapy at home
If you are struggling with shortness of breath, low oxygen levels and a productive chest while recovering at home, contact your physiotherapist to do a home visit. They will be able to use a variety of techniques to help manage and improve your symptoms.