Last year, I had a bad bout with COVID. The effects lasted longer than I ever thought they would. I was supposed to run a half-marathon a month after having it. I had to skip it because I was still having trouble catching my breath. I even had a tough time walking upstairs at one point. So, I talked to Vishal Jivan, MD, from The Christ Hospital – Pulmonary Medicine about the lasting COVID symptoms and how they affect your lungs.
The impact of COVID on your lungs
I had major breathing issues during and post-COVID, so I wondered what impact it had on my lungs. Dr. Jivan said, "COVID can cause your lungs — specifically the air sacs (Alveoli) — to inflame and can potentially scar. It also can lead to reactive airway disease of the breathing tubes (bronchi)."
Lasting effects of COVID on your lungs
Even after I was "COVID free," I still had trouble breathing and catching my breath. I also had a co-worker who was having the same problems. I was constantly thinking, "How long is this going to last?"
Dr. Jivan explained, "It really depends on the severity of the illness and if you're having symptoms of cough or shortness of breath but anywhere from a few days, weeks up to a few months."
I will admit that when I feel like I am having trouble breathing, it's a little scary, so I also wondered what I should watch out for. "Patients should watch out for shortness of breath, coughing, chest tightness and lower oxygen issues (hypoxia)," Dr. Jivan told me.
Exercising safely again
When it comes to running, I am not even close to being back to where I was. I took it very slow just out of precaution. I asked Dr. Jivan how long I should wait or have waited before I started exercising again.
He recommended, "It is safe to do light exercise, such as walking or jogging during COVID if you have mild symptoms, but if you had a more severe course, then generally 1-2 weeks after respiratory symptoms have improved."
Different strains of COVID and precautions
We have all heard that different strains of COVID affect people differently, and according to Dr. Jivan this is true. He said, "The new more contagious strains of omicron tend to not affect the lungs as severe as did alpha and delta strains, but ultimately it's based on preexisting comorbidities such as COPD, asthma or other lung diseases."
I also asked him about the precautions we should take when it comes to COVID and our lungs. He suggested, "Depending on if your medical history includes a respiratory condition, you can exercise, such as walking if you're able to, using your inhaler regularly as indicated by your physician, drink and eat well balanced meals as able."
New treatments for the lingering effects of COVID
Since I had lingering effects for quite some time after having COVID, I wondered if there are any new treatments for this. Dr. Jivan said, "There are not necessarily any new treatments for pulmonary complications but there are many existing therapies that can be effective, especially if those patients are not already prescribed these medications such as inhalers or steroids."
After hearing what Dr. Jivan had to say about how COVID affected my lungs, I do feel better about running again. It was a struggle for a while, but I am happy to say that I can walk up the stairs and not be out of breath anymore!
Need a partner in care to help you manage your health? The Christ Hospital Physicians – Primary Care have convenient locations throughout Greater Cincinnati. Schedule a new patient visit online or call 513-585-3000 to find a provider near you.