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Posted on Apr 24 2020 by Jo Lehmann

Breathing tips and facts from our Physiotherapy team! 

Our Physiotherapist team want to share some facts and top tips for breathing. 

Breathe from your nose if you can.

We would always encourage nose-breathing rather than mouth-breathing.  Your nose is really important in keeping the air moist when you breathe in and catching any particles in the air.  Make sure that you have enough to drink to help keep your insides working well and your breathing system as moist as it should be.  

Have a warm drink

An expert in respiratory diseases at Cardiff University in the UK and former director of the Common Cold Centre suggests that ‘although there is no evidence that hot drinks will protect against viral infections they may bring some relief from the symptoms of a cold; this is likely due in part to the effect it had on promoting secretions of saliva and mucus in the mouth and nose, which help to soothe inflammation’. Steam inhaled from a hot drink can also help to keep the air moist as it passes through our respiratory system. This helps the lungs to work properly.

Gentle low-level movement and focused breathing can help relieving stress

Doing some low to moderate level of exercise is good for you. It will help your breathing muscles to get/remain strong and help reduce stress levels.   Ensure that you get up from sitting every half hour or so, move around or do some exercises. Some people might find the breathing exercises are meditative and stress-relieving.

To help with lung health, avoid lying on your back for long periods when not asleep.

Lying continuously on your back is not ideal. Try sitting, standing and moving around, – you naturally take in bigger breaths when you do this and that will help the air to get to the bottom of your lungs.

If you have Covid-19 symptoms affecting your breathing, this extra information may be helpful:

If you are experiencing extreme tiredness and breathing becomes short or hard to do, try a forward leaning position to give your tiring breathing muscles time to recover whilst other treatment is arranged.

Propping yourself up with pillows, or leaning forward onto the back of a chair can help with breathlessness or extremely tired breathing muscles.

Some intensive care Physios who have had COVID-19, report that they found lying on their stomach to have been helpful when they were especially breathless. Only do this if it’s comfortable. Having a pillow under one side of your chest and stomach may help your neck position.  If you become dizzy or faint when trying this, then change position quickly.

Be aware!

If you are breathless, some breathing exercises can be helpful.

While breathing exercises should be harmless for healthy individuals, we do not advise them generally, adding that they could make symptoms worse in someone suffering ‘breathlessness’.

This link gives more information on the management of breathlessness. 

Using breathing relaxation techniques will show you where your breathing muscles are and, when practiced, can help the muscles to get stronger.

If you are ill in bed with any breathing illness

When we lay down asleep we often take small breaths. However if you are ill in bed it is advisable to take some big breaths every hour to help get the air to the bottom of your lungs.  Sometimes people with COVID-19 report taking deep breaths is hard, please try anyway.  Changing position in bed is helpful in lung clearance, and when you can, sit up in a chair.

Be kind to yourself. Make sure you drink enough (hot or cold drinks). 6 to 8 glasses /cups a day. Rest when you need to, but try to sit out of bed for a while too. Do not take part in exercise until you are better. It is reported that COVID-19 can cause extreme tiredness (fatigue), so pace yourself as you recover. Talk to the physiotherapy team.   

A few people will get another (secondary) type of an infection as a result of COVID-19 such as pneumonia. Respiratory Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment in managing this.                                           

If you are at all concerned, dial 111 if at home or at work, discuss the patient’s symptoms with the lead nurse and doctor.