Around 80 percent of patients who had Covid-19 went through the illness without being put to hospital. Out of those patients who ended up in a hospital, roughly 90 percent reported they had a medical condition. These included hypertension, metabolic disease and/or a condition in the range of cardiovascular diseases. Around 20 percent of Covid patients who went through the coronavirus-caused sickness and successfully survived it, have a long way of full recovery ahead. They don’t get out of hospital and jump onto their daily tasks, doing their regular work and proceeding with their pre-covid routines. As a matter of fact, a lot of those patients would be spending for up to 2 weeks in specially established rehabilitation facilities. These facilities created as a response to the world-wide coronavirus-19 challenge are aiming to lead a patient away from the turbulence that the virus has caused in their health and life in general and towards the “normal” path.
The rehabilitation process is complex and can vary from case to case depending on the type of damage Covid caused in a patient. The major subgroups of issues the rehabilitation is addressing include:
- Neurological complications,
- Cognitive impairment,
- Muscular functioning,
- Psyciatry0related issues,
- Speech deficit.
Around 1/3 of patients who suffered from Covid-19 show the signs and symptoms of neurological complications. These include persisting headaches, feeling dizzy, lack of concentration, loss of a short-term or long-term memory function, loss or decrease of sense of smell and/or taste, weakness in skeletal muscles, muscle pain.
There are also higher number of strokes and various sorts of cardiovascular system-related unexpected harmful occurrences that Covid survivors are facing. The blood clotting which is caused by corona-virus proteins is omnipresent in patients and is still under research by the leading specialists in the world who are trying to understand its mechanisms in order to prevent and to treat it better in the future.
While the researchers do not know the exact mechanism by which Covid is causing harmful occurrences in the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, there are markers that can be observed and these include elevated inflammatory markers. These will result in higher rate of blood clotting, eventually leading up to higher risk of stroke, potential heart attack or pulmonary embolism.
Post-Intensive Care Unit Syndrome
When patients are under the ventilators in intensive care units for a significant period of time, there is a risk of developing so-called post-ICU syndrome. This is a relatively new syndrome that came into existence on full terms only during the current epidemic of Covid.
What are the signs and symptoms of post-ICU syndrome?
- Breathing difficulties. As a person under an ICU has been forcefully helped to breathe for days or even weeks, he would unlearn how to do it in a normal way without the help of a machine. His lungs “forget” how to operate their smooth muscles and produce the machinery leading to normal breathing routine. Not only breathing itself is impaired, but also every function that is related to it. Like, speaking, for example.
- Weaknesses in arms and/or legs. As there is hindrance to the normal blood flow pumped from the heart to the arms and legs, these can be felt as numb, lacking any sensation at times.
- Part or complete muscle atrophy. In extreme cases, there is full atrophy observed as a patient has not been using any of his skeletal muscles in any way. The muscles are designed in such a way that they need being used constantly in order to keep their function.
- Impaired functioning of the brain. The damage to the central nervous system can be apparent in the brain, in particular in its parts responsible for extracting memories and thinking rationally.
- Psychic states or mild mental illness, manifested in generalized depressive disorder because of the lack of socializing, movement and general isolation lasting for days or weeks.
- Complications with swallowing, also known as dysphagia. Dysphagia is developed after a significant period of time being under a breathing tube or a ventilating machine.
Rehabilitating after Coronavirus-19
To address the challenges that the post-Covid rehabilitation brings to the patient, there are multi-disciplinary rehabilitation teams of various specialists who are able to target a specific issue. These teams are comprised of speech-improvement therapists, occupational specialists, neurophysiologists and neuropsychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists.
After being introduced to a rehabilitation center, a post-covid patient can barely walk or even stand still after he stood up from the bed. Almost every regular daily routine is a huge challenge for a patient — using a bathroom, getting dressed up, washing himself — all of it is barely doable without assistance from a nurse or attendance worker.
As Covid is a pulmonary-specific disease, the lungs of a patient cannot function properly and the levels of oxygen in the blood decrease rapidly with a tiny bit of activity. The patients are usually also experience tachycardia, resulting in their heart rates going up to 110 to 120 beats per minute.
The rehabilitation process on the whole is a slow one after the coronavirus. It takes several days for a heart rate of a patient to reach normal levels and the oxygen supply to become consistently normal. After these normalize, a patient can slowly upgrade his physical and occupational routines.
That’s the stage where occupational therapists come into play and start working with a patient on getting comfortable with say-to-day routines including taking a bath or shower, getting dressed, getting hygiene routines. A physical therapists, on the other hand, will help working on getting accustomed gain to walking and climbing stairs.
Step-by-step, a patient is getting the ability to function completely independent, being able to walk home. A lot of patients still keep seeing a physical, speech, or occupational therapist as an outpatient.
Essential Steps For Getting Back To Physical Activities Post COVID-19
We are providing you with several tips that will help to get back to normal life after surviving Covid-19 virus. It is estimated that around 10 percent of Covid survivors will have health issues persisting for months after the virus got kicked out of the system. There is a special term for these patients — “long-hauler” while the lingering condition is named “long-lasting Covid” or PASC. Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2.
If you as a patient happen to show symptoms of PASC, make sure to address your physician prior to going through the exercise program. At times, PASC can be manifested in complications with health that would require help of the testing, imaging, and other diagnostic devices before it makes sense to get referred to a physician. The specifics for each individual treatment must be established prior to any rehabilitation program. For example, doing physical exercise is a challenge for almost anyone with a long-hauled Covid.
Milder PASC can leave a patient with feeling of weakness, impaired balance and coordination, insufficient endurance and having complications with memory unction. Physical activities, when assigned properly, can help in recovering these functions.
While patients hardly ever think of exercise as a path to recovery from a serious illness, in the case of Covid it might be the best tool we have. Ongoing physical exercise benefits mind and body functions. It is simply important to get moving as out nature got designed to do.
The good timeframe for getting back to physical exercise after surviving Covid is estimated to be 7 days after you a completely free of Covid symptoms. A timeframe of 2 weeks of minimal exertion is advised.
It is recommended to listen to what your body says carefully as well to the professional medical specialist to determine when it is the right time to get back to exercise. After the time has come, take it slowly and follow these simple steps of returning to physical activities:
- Keep Moving, Even if a Little
Your body just survived a huge stressful event. It takes time to recover. Keep moving but do it slowly. A short walk from your bed to the restroom might be the route you may want to explore and activate first. Even climbing a one flight of stairs might be a huge challenge in those days. Make sure to try to get up from your couch and move several times during a day. Try simple stretching exercises — stretching your hands up in the air while taking deep breaths when you rise. You will see your strength returning slowly back to the old days normal.
- Taking a Walk
If you feel like you can take a step or tow, please try it. Make it brief. Try first to walk down the corridor while holding onto the wall. If you feel you can walk without having to support yourself with the hand, go ahead and make several rounds around your corridor, apartment, hall. Next, try to walk out of the building and make a couple of rounds around your house, while still keeping close to the wall in the case you would need to support yourself. Then, if you see you can walk around with no problem, keep going out of your building and walk around your neighborhood. It sounds a little like learning to walk again, but that is what it is.
At this point of your recovery, your intensity should be light. If you feel like during a light conversation you are starting to gasp for breath, you are trying too hard. There is no need to at this stage. Look at the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion to understand your intensity dynamics. If you feel the light intensity is the milestone you have passed and you are craving for a gym exercise, make sure not to get it overdone. Your body needs time to recover to your pre-Covid stage of shape. The process is long and might take weeks.
- Running for your Health
If you are done with a walking stage and can steadily walk for an hour without gasping for breath, you can try getting back to jogging, swimming, cycling and whatever else you had done in the past as a more intense physical activity of your choice. You start slowly, taking a run for 5–10 minutes, then incrementally increasing your pace and duration of the exercise. Make it 15 minutes after a couple of days, then, after you feel confident you can exercise that long, increase it to half an hour.
At this point your intensity level is ready to be high. Your exercise may seem hard but not insurmountable. You would be able to breathe faster but will be able to pronounce full sentences without gasping.
It doesn’t matter what your age or condition, — you should be able to exercise daily considering the recommended amounts. However, if your case of post-Covid is heavily lingering and you can’t engage even in a minor physical exercise, please get in touch with your physician who are experienced in Covid-19 treatment when it comes to the lingering case. They will work with you on the routine and planning to getting back normal exercising and breathing.
Diet during Covid-19 Recovery Period
Having a proper diet is crucial for patients recovering from Covid-19. We will guide with diet essentials that will help you come through the recovery healthy and fit.
Why diet is important when recovering from an illness? When our immune system is battling with an infection, it takes up much more energy and fluids than it would in a regular state. We are obliged to eat and consume water more than we would usually do. Another important element our system is in need to fight viruses and bacteria are building blocks — those are derived from protein-rich food and they go directly to aid the immune system and also to repair our tissues damaged by the battle with the virus. A good assortment of vitamins and minerals would provide the necessary amount of building blocks.
On the other hand, when we are sick, it’s not easy to consume food or drink for plenty of reasons. Our bodies start to take to our innate sourcing of energy, going for glucose stored in the muscles. A patient is getting thinner while the muscles become smaller and also less powerful.
With the following nutrition tips you can help your body recover faster and arise from the battle with illness in its former glory:
- Picking high in proteins foods and asking for extra dessert such as yogurth, rice pudding or berries. This will give your body the boost of energy imminent in proteins. Consider having at least 3 portions of some sort of protein consumed during the day.
- Choose supplement drinks. They come to help when you are eating less food than normal because of lacking appetite, having complications with breathing or experiencing fatigues. They also help when there is a loss of muscle power. Address your nurse and ask to bring you a selection of supplement drinks that are rich in proteins and minerals.
- Drink more fluids than you usually drink. This is the golden rule of recovering from any illness. Target consuming at least 2 liters of water in one form or another during the day. You can drink juices, soups, dairy products — it all helps your metabolism processes. Always drink some w3ater at the end of each meal to help absorbing the coming nutrients.
- Eat several times a day but for a bit each time. While you may have get accustomed to 2 or 3-times a day food consumption during regular days, it is not too productive a route for your organism to get the best out of the foods. Eating smaller portions, doing it slowly, and trying to breathe deeply while eating would help better consumption of food.
- A lot of patients are losing their taste and smell almost entirely especially during the early stages of Covid. Try to regularly clean your teeth and use mouthwash. Consider spicier foods to make your taste develop once again. If you experience nausea, consider using plainer foods.