Do not be under the false impression that you’ve become “invincible” if you’ve had a Covid Attack and recovered. Complete recovery from Covid 19 can be a gradual and long process ranging from 2-4 weeks in mild cases to 3-6 months in moderate to severe cases, depending upon the need and duration of hospitalization or ICU/ventilator care.
Worried at the increasing number of coronavirus recovered patients coming up with serious complications after restarting their routine exercises, pandemic experts and doctors advise them to stick to basic breathing exercises and NOTHING MORE for at least three months.
Your lungs, the primary site of infection, are still recovering. They can’t keep pace if you immediately start intense physical activity. And if you are one among those who’ve had a brush with a severe Covid Attack, your lungs might have gone into fibrosis (thickening) post pneumonia, making it further difficult for them to cope up. The other important [vital] organ contributing to symptoms of breathlessness and chest discomfort during/post-Covid 19 is your heart. Distress of any of these two may culminate into life-threatening complications.
Intense physical activity or training of any kind immediately after recovery is an absolute no-no. It must be done in a phased manner.
Since a lot is still being learned about this novel disease, while low-intensity activity like walking is reasonably okay, those who are planning to do a moderate to high-intensity activity must consult a cardiologist or a pulmonologist and get investigated before moving forward.
What you should be doing?
Common impairments post a Covid attack include:
- weakness and fatigue,
- shortness of breath with activity, and
- difficulty in walking or performing daily tasks.
When you experience these physical impairments, it can lead to stress, which negatively affects the mind. Fear and depression can impact your health in totality.
As Covid attacks both – your body and mind, rehabilitation efforts aim to restore you as a whole (body+mind) as well, to help you return to your previous quality of life.
The solution is to Start Moving
Movement not only heals the physical body, it’s also a way to restore the mind and soothe emotions. By engaging in movements that the human body is already used to, we can begin the process of recovery and healing. They can be started as early as while at home during self-isolation.
First step: Breathe deep, crawl and walk
There are five layers of human movement that repair and optimize the whole individual’s health in body and mind. These layers or movement patterns develop not just during childhood but throughout our lifetime and depend on the various body systems to work well. Follow a “phased rehabilitation” involving each of these layers to smoothly return to your preffered way of life and enjoy full health.
* Breathe Deep – Breathe deeply, filling the lungs up from the bottom to the top.
* Turn on the vestibular system – The vestibular system controls balance and sensory input from the body and is turned on by moving our head and eyes.
* Cross your body – Engage in crossbody patterns such as crawling, marching or walking.
* Build Strength – Increase muscle strength.
* Gain endurance – Increase tolerance for physical activity and movement.
These exercises address our cardiopulmonary (heart and lungs), neuro-vestibular (balance and coordination), musculoskeletal (muscles and joints) and mental/cognitive (brain and thinking) body systems.
Second step: A gradual return to normalcy
Returning to normalcy after Covid infection is a gradual process. Since extreme fatigue, breathlessness or muscle and joint pain can stay for a bit longer than expected, it is best to assess your physical condition before getting on with your daily chores or moderate to intense physical activity.
- continue to rest for a few days after recovery and return to your normal spectrum of activity first.
- keep monitoring your SpO2 levels.
- continue still to wear a mask and maintain social distancing.
- consume a nutritious diet.
- avoid cold or refrigerated food items such as ice cream or soft drinks.
- eat only warm food and fluids.
- drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.
- avoid smoking and alcohol.
- ensure a minimum of eight hours of sleep a day.
- practice deep breathing [pranayam], every morning and night to help your SpO2 levels and reduce stress levels.
- do regular follow-ups and continue with your medication if you’ve had a moderate to severe infection.
Third step: All recovered COVID patients should get the vaccine shot
As per current estimates, all coronavirus vaccines under approval are over 80% effective and incredibly promising in minimizing symptoms, severity, mortality as well as TTR (Time taken to recovery).
Though natural immunity attained post a COVID infection is always better than vaccine-generated immunity for a specific amount of time, it can vary from person to person depending upon the type and severity of the infection. It could also differ for a person, depending on co-morbid conditions (viz. uncontrolled diabetes, COPD, kidney heart and lung issues, and for cancer patients on chemotherapy or people on immunosuppressive drugs), and general health.
Even if there remains a slim chance of getting COVID again after a full recovery, being vaccinated will effectively cut down the risks which could complicate your case, and protect you from scary mutants as well.
Studies and anecdotal evidence of this novel infection suggest that on an average, a person who has had COVID-19 gets natural immunity lasting anywhere from 90-180 days.
Right now, we do not have any evidence that suggests that getting vaccinated immediately after infection is contraindicated. However, vaccine driven immunity may not help much at a time when natural immunity against the virus is at its strongest. Therefore, it would be best to take the jab when your natural immunity starts to wane. It will only ‘boost’ your protection and provide a more consistent, longer-lasting immunity.