According to John Hopkins University, over two million people globally have recovered from coronavirus1.
However, the journey back to full health may not be the same for all. Some people could shrug off the illness quickly, but for others, including those who are admitted to hospital and required to use an oxygen mask, recovery may take longer2.
Dr David Poots, senior occupational health physician at BHSF, believes the majority will recover easily but some will face challenges.
“For the majority, recovery from COVID-19 should be straightforward and no different to normal flu.
“However, some people will have been severely ill and recovery could be slow. There’s no standard approach, the key will be individualised assessments of physical and psychological needs, in the context of both home and work life.
“BHSF has partnered with experts in physical rehabilitation, mental health and debt management, allowing us to provide a recovery programme tailored to the individual’s needs.”
Fiona McGill, occupational health manager at BHSF, advises on how people can look after themselves if they’ve had COVID-19.
“After recovering from the infection, the body may not be operating 100%, especially if the person was hospitalised or severely ill. The World Health Organization say it could take six weeks to fully recover if patients were in a critical condition3.
“Spending a long time in a hospital could lead to muscle mass loss. Patients could be weak and muscle can take time to build up again. Some people may need physiotherapy to walk again.
“To maximise recovery from COVID-19, we recommend working on strength and breathing exercises and the muscles in their arms and legs.
“Practicing regular breathing exercises can help improve the function of the diaphragm, get more air to the bases of the lungs and help to improve the supply of oxygen to the body.
“When you’ve had an illness like COVID-19, your lungs may have lost some of it’s spring. As a result, they may not take oxygen in or let waste gases out as effectively.
“In the same way you progress slowly with breathing exercises, try to take it easy with general exercise. Walking is the best form of exercise, to begin with, on a level surface, and for no more than five minutes.
“If you can do this comfortably, don’t be tempted to do more straight away. Wait until the next day and increase the time or distance you walk by 10%. Once you can walk comfortably for 30 minutes, you could increase the challenge by walking more quickly or add in hills and stairs.
“Many of you who are used to being fairly active may find this lower level of activity very frustrating. The key here is slow, steady and sustained increases in activity level, not boom and bust.”
Oximeters and spirometers
McGill highlights some of the devices COVID-19 patients might be given once they are discharged from hospital.
“Some patients may have been given a pulse oximeter upon discharge from hospital. This device monitors heart rate and oxygen levels during activities and exercises.
“People in recovery should check their heart rate and oxygen levels before, during, and after exercise. Normal oxygen saturation is between 96 and 100%. It shouldn’t go below 88% during exercise. If levels do fall under 88%, I would strongly advise people to consult a doctor immediately.
“People may have also received a spirometer. Spirometers are designed to help people take long, slow and deep breaths. It should be used for 15 minutes throughout the day, which can be broken into three sessions. Spirometers help strengthen breathing muscles and open up airspace in the lungs.”
McGill adds patients who have been discharged from hospital may require support once they’re back in their normal surroundings.
“We’re living in a situation that’s touched everyone. Some patients may be struggling with how to mentally process everything their body has been put through.
“They may even develop signs and symptoms of an acute stress reaction, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms can include flashbacks, persistent negative emotions or trouble with concentration.
“However, anyone can improve their mental health in the age of COVID-19, whether they have had an infection or not. People could engage in regular communication for social purposes with family and friends or meditate before bedtime.
“It could also mean people reaching out to mental health professionals. If you are experiencing symptoms of stress or PTSD, the sooner you can get help, the better the outcome.”
BHSF RISE is a tailored mental health and wellbeing service which provides unlimited, ongoing specialist support built around an individual’s specific needs. If you or anyone you know is struggling with their mental health, we’re here to help. Call us today on 0800 622 552 or email [email protected].