How to properly recover from coronavirus?

A gloomy joke circulates on the Internet: “In the Middle Ages, people were divided into the living, the dead, and those in the sea. In 2021, humanity was divided into those who have already been ill, have not yet been ill and vaccinated. ” There are a lot of articles about coronavirus infection, but we tried to write this text for those who have just become infected and are preparing to recover, those who have already been ill, and those who are considering whether to get vaccinated. Hope you find it helpful.

What exactly does the coronavirus break down in the body?

The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is capable of breaking any organs to which its spike proteins are suitable – the so-called protein master keys located on the surface of the viral particle. Spike proteins are similar in shape to the spikes or teeth of the crown – it is because of their shape that the coronavirus was called the coronavirus.

When the virus approaches the cell of the future host, the spike protein binds to the cellular receptor ACE2, penetrates inside and induces its own order in the cell: it makes it print its own proteins, from which new viral particles are then assembled. 

The good news is that not all organs have ACE2 receptors. Bad news: we still have a lot of organs with these receptors. For example, the virus can invade cells in the lungs, heart, intestines, and pancreas. And so are the cells that are responsible for the health of the olfactory neurons .

Coronavirus and lungs . Coronavirus spreads like colds and flu – from sick person to healthy person along with small droplets of saliva when sneezing and coughing. It is even easier to catch the virus from asymptomatic carriers – you just need to breathe the same air. 

In general, the virus enters the nose and mouth first. And since ACE2 receptors are present in cells from the “support group” of olfactory neurons, in some infected people, on the third day after infection, the sense of smell “beats off”, and on the fifth or seventh day, the ability to sense taste may disappear. Sometimes the infected are lucky, and this remains the only symptoms of the disease – by the way, on average, they disappear in about two weeks. However, in most patients, the virus not only discourages the sense of smell, but also provokes a runny nose.

In patients who are even less fortunate , the virus descends into the lungs. This happens most often with people over 65 and with patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension. But in principle, a healthy young man can also hit the jackpot.

In the lungs, the coronavirus descends into the alveoli – air sacs in which the blood is saturated with oxygen and parted with carbon dioxide, and penetrates the cells responsible for creating lung lubrication. To protect themselves, cells secrete more and more mucus – until it becomes so much that it fills the alveolus and disrupts gas exchange.

Here the immune system already catches itself – and inflammation begins: the temperature rises to 38 ° C and above to prevent the virus from multiplying, and more and more immune cells burst into the alveoli. Of course, they destroy viral particles and infected cells, but at the same time they damage the alveoli, so that viral pneumonia can develop . In those who are not at all lucky, an autoimmune reaction joins pneumonia – this is when the immune system mistakenly begins to destroy all cells indiscriminately. And in 8% of cases , a bacterial infection also joins a viral infection – therefore, although antibiotics do not work on viruses, they are still prescribed to these patients.

Coronavirus and thrombosis . Inflammation is, of course, a good defensive strategy, but in the case of coronavirus, it can go sideways to the body. The fact is that the inflammatory response increases the risk of blood clots, which can trigger venous thrombosis, heart attack, or stroke. The risk group is primarily people over 60 years of age, but a blood clot can also form “in people without typical risk factors.” That is, for any person.

Coronavirus and heart . The coronavirus loves the heart – or rather, the cells of the heart and the blood vessels that feed it. Having settled in the cells of the heart, it can cause inflammation of the heart muscle, provoke heart failure or arrhythmia . In the risk group, first of all, patients with cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, but in general, shortness of breath associated with the heart is often reported by generally healthy (before coronavirus disease) people. 

Coronavirus and the nervous system . Data on how exactly the coronavirus affects the nervous system is still scarce . But it is known for sure that 20-40% of patients develop neuropsychiatric symptoms: 42% of them suffered from insomnia, 38% complained of problems with attention and concentration, and 36 and 33% reported anxiety and depressed mood. True, it is difficult to say what affects patients worse – the pranks of the virus or understandable fears for their health.

In general, coronavirus disease is not a cold or flu, but a much more serious and dangerous thing. So you need to take a responsible approach to recovery and recovery.

What is the chance that I will be sick with pneumonia or insomnia?

It depends on the age and state of health of the person. The healthier and younger a person is, the higher their chances of suffering a mild illness. The worse the health was before the infection with the coronavirus, the higher the chance that the patient will become seriously ill, or he will have complications. For example, pneumonia or thrombosis.

Specialists from the Ministry of Health and experts from the American Center for the Control and Prevention of Infectious Diseases (CDC) distinguish four forms of coronavirus disease:

  • mild coronavirus disease is similar to the common cold – the body temperature does not exceed 38.5 ° C, the patient coughs, complains of headache and muscle pain. Saturation (SpO2), that is, the degree of blood oxygen saturation, is normal, that is, within 96-100%;
  • moderate coronavirus disease is more like influenza – the temperature rises above 38.5 ° C, shortness of breath occurs with physical exertion. With moderate severity, SpO2 can be reduced to 94–95%;
  • severe coronavirus disease is similar to pneumonia – a person does not have enough air, even if he does not move at all, he feels agitated, his thoughts are confused, and SpO2 can drop to 93% and below;
  • extremely severe coronavirus disease is a very unpleasant thing: the temperature is kept within 39 ° C all the time, the person feels extremely bad and cannot breathe without a ventilator.

According to statistics, in a mild or moderate form (that is, either completely without pneumonia, or with not too serious pneumonia), 81% of those infected are sick. In severe form (with shortness of breath and pneumonia in more than half of the lungs), 14% of patients are ill. In a very severe form (with respiratory failure, mechanical ventilation and shock), 5% are ill. And 2.3% of cases die.

What are the chances of a full recovery, and how long will it take?

Young people are most likely to fully recover without chronic diseases that were mildly ill – such, as we remember, 81%. On average, patients in this group recover completely within two weeks. 

Those who were sick more severely recover for two to three months. All this time, unpleasant symptoms may persist . For example, 15 to 87% of recovering people complain of rapid fatigue and weakness, 10-71% of those recovering from shortness of breath, 12-44% of chest pains, and 17-26% of coughs. Fortunately, you don’t have to endure all of this: there are ways to help your body recover as soon as possible.

How to help the body recover as soon as possible

If a person has been ill in a severe or extremely severe form, he will have to recover in the hospital, because for some time he will depend on additional oxygen. But for those who were sick in a mild or moderate form, it makes sense to start taking care of their health within 30 days after the symptoms of the disease disappear. 

You can do this yourself. But it is safer to start with a visit to a rehabilitation doctor, pulmonologist or therapist. It is necessary for the doctor to confirm that the recovered person does not have heart problems, and to advise on the target indicators: pulse, blood pressure and heart rate (HR) during exercise. The heart rate should not exceed 60% of the maximum recommended for a particular person – otherwise you can harm yourself a lot.

Breathing exercises

The goal of exercise is to learn to breathe deeply because it helps restore diaphragm function and increase lung capacity. It is better to perform the exercises gradually, starting from the first stage. You can proceed to the next stages only after you can complete the exercise and do not get out of breath. But if dizziness, chest pain, or shortness of breath appear during exercise, stop immediately and give yourself some rest.

Stage 1: Deep Back Breathing

Lie on your back and bend your knees so that your feet are resting on the bed. Place your hands on your stomach. Close your mouth, close your lips and press your tongue against the palate. Breathe in through your nose until your belly is rounded. Exhale slowly through your nose and repeat deep breaths for one minute.

Stage 2: deep belly breathing

Lie on your stomach and fold your hands in front of your face, resting your head on them. Close your mouth, purse your lips and press your tongue against the palate. Breathe in through your nose. Try to keep your belly pressed against the mattress as you inhale. Exhale slowly through your nose. Repeat deep breaths and exhales for one minute.

Stage 3: deep breathing while sitting

Sit upright on the edge of the bed or on a stable (non-office) chair without touching the back of the chair. Place your arms around your stomach. Close your mouth, close your lips, and press your tongue against the palate. Breathe in through your nose until your belly is rounded. Exhale slowly through your nose and repeat deep breaths for one minute.

Stage 4: deep breathing while standing

Stand up straight with your arms around your belly. Close your mouth, close your lips and press your tongue against the palate. Breathe in through your nose until your belly is rounded. Exhale slowly through your nose and repeat deep breaths for one minute.

If these exercises are not to your liking or seemed too simple, you can go to the website of the Johns Hopkins Clinic : there you can find many other breathing exercises, and in the format of video instructions. Or read them in our article on breathing exercises .

Physical exercises

It all starts with light stretching and muscle strengthening. Here you can focus on light exercises and movements that are used to warm up before training. The main thing is to be careful with bends and squats – your head may spin. It may make sense to start with a warm-up for the neck, core, and legs.

If the exercise does not cause discomfort, you can move on to light aerobic activity – walking, walking on the path or exercising on a stationary bike (at the very first speed). It is best to do this under the supervision of an experienced trainer or physical therapist – this way you are less likely to feel bad.

It is enough to do it 2-3 times a week. Even this lightweight program can help reduce fatigue and strengthen muscles.   

Food

According to Italian scientists , about 7.2% of people who have suffered from coronavirus disease have not returned their sense of smell even after two months. This makes it difficult to enjoy food, so people often eat less than they did before the illness. And this is not very correct, because it takes a lot of strength to recover quickly.

Unfortunately, no way has yet been invented to restore the ability to smell. But on the other hand, since all food tastes the same, you can try adding more vegetables and fruits to the menu – they have a lot of vitamins. You can also conduct an experiment and temporarily replace meat products with fish or other seafood – you get something like a Mediterranean diet, which experts recognize as one of the healthiest.

Do I need to be vaccinated for those who have already been ill?

Yes. People rarely become infected with coronavirus disease again, because those who have recovered are protected by adaptive immunity . This is the name of a warm company of immune cells: two types of B cells, one of which create protective antibodies to coronavirus, and the second remember which antibodies to create, and two types of T cells, some of which train B cells, while others attack virus-infected cells. All of them create cellular memory, which allows the body to recognize the coronavirus in time and defend itself against it for at least six months.

But sometimes people who have already been ill still get sick . Therefore, for those who have no contraindications to vaccination, it is safer to do it after all. The creators of the Gam-COVID-Vac vaccine, which we know as Sputnik V, recently published an article in the Lancet with interim results from a Phase III clinical trial. Based on the data obtained, the creators of the vaccine concluded that the vaccine successfully creates cellular immunity to the coronavirus.

The main thing to do before vaccination is to wait for all symptoms of the disease, including mild coughing, to pass. It is forbidden to vaccinate people with cold symptoms.

What is the bottom line

  1. The coronavirus is able to penetrate any cells that its protein master key approaches, so that the lungs, the heart, and the intestines, and other organs are vulnerable to it. Coronavirus is serious.
  2. Young and generally healthy people tend to get sick with mild cold-like symptoms. But no one is immune from severe pneumonia and heart complications.
  3. Most people who get sick recover within two weeks. But people who have been seriously ill can recover up to two to three months, and even longer.
  4. Many people who have already recovered have unpleasant symptoms for several months: fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing and chest pain.
  5. Breathing exercises and light exercise can help you recover as soon as possible.
  6. Everyone needs to be vaccinated against coronavirus, even those who have been ill. It’s safer this way.

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