Sick in bed with COVID-19? Here’s why you need to get up | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

Sick in bed with COVID-19? Here’s why you need to get up

A pulmonologist explains why walking, breathing deep and stretching help fight COVID-19

If you’re sick in bed with COVID-19, you need to get up, stretch, breathe deeply and get your lungs full of as much air as you can — even though it hurts, according to a Norton Healthcare pulmonologist.

Microscopic air sacs in the lungs — alveoli — are doing much of your respiratory system’s work. In a patient with COVID-19, these air sacs can become inflamed or filled with fluid, leading to shortness of breath and possibly dangerously low oxygen levels.

If you think you have COVID-19 and it is not an emergency, do not go to a hospital or doctor’s office. Use the Norton Healthcare COVID-19 questionnaire to determine if you need to seek care.

Help your lungs; get up and move

Anytime you spend extended time in bed, some of the air sacs in your lungs to shut down temporarily. If you have COVID-19, damage from the virus combines with this natural process to limit the amount of air your lungs can take in, perhaps dangerously so.

One way to counteract COVID-19’s attack on your air sacs is to get more of them working, according to William O. Lacy, M.D., pulmonologist with Norton Pulmonary Specialists.

“This virus loves the lungs. It loves to hang out in your lungs, so don’t make things worse by allowing air sacs to collapse by staying in bed,” Dr. Lacy said. “With COVID-19, you don’t want to compromise your lungs any more.”

So, get out of bed even if it hurts to breathe. Stretch, cough, walk around and take deep breaths. Naturally, we all have portions of our lungs not fully used. By putting more of your lungs to work, you’ll begin to offset COVID-19’s effect of shutting down parts of them, according to Dr. Lacy.

If you’ve ever had surgery, your providers have pushed you to blow into a tube to push a ball higher and higher. The device, an incentive spirometer, performs the same task to get your lungs reopened after general anesthesia.

When you are in bed, spend some time on your stomach or side. Lying in a prone position can help air get into more parts of your lungs, because lying on your back puts pressure on parts of your lungs, causing them to collapse.


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