We are currently living in a scary time where everyone is looking for ways to protect themselves and their loved ones from the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. While treatments and vaccinations against it are still being developed, one thing has been made clear to us all:
The best thing you can do to protect yourself and the people you care about is to stay home, wash your hands, and keep a safe distance from others when you are out.
Thankfully, there are doctors and nurses that, when they are not busy saving lives, are taking the time to create content to help assuage our fears and provide us with information to stay safe. One doctor in the UK has posted a video about a breathing technique on YouTube that could help alleviate discomfort in COVID patients. This technique has been endorsed by Chris Como and ever-famous Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. (1)
The Coronavirus Breathing Technique
The video (which can be seen below) was made by Queen’s Hospital’s Dr. Sarfaraz Munshi and Sue Elliot, the director of nursing for the non-profit health organization Partnership of East London Co-operatives Ltd (PELC) in the United Kingdom. It takes you through a six-step breathing technique that helps to open the lungs and prevent them from collapsing. This technique was not created for COVID-19 specifically, rather it has long been used for patients suffering from other lung conditions such as secondary pneumonia due to influenza. (1, 2)
The steps to the technique are as follows(1):
- Take in a big, deep breath.
- Hold that breath for 5 seconds before breathing out.
- Repeat that 5 times.
- Take a sixth breath, following the same method, but this time instead of breathing out, cover your mouth and cough deeply.
- Repeat so you are going through the cycle two times.
- Following the two cycles, lie on your stomach with a pillow for 10 minutes breathing deeper than you normally would to open up all airways in the lungs.
It is recommended that this be done several times each day the minute you experience any COVID-19 symptoms. Dr. Munshi even suggests you get in the habit before you have symptoms. (1)
Why the stomach breaths?
In his video, Dr. Munshi explains that the reason for lying on your stomach as opposed to your back is because the majority of your lungs, the really deep parts, are actually located in your back, not your front. Lying on your back compresses your lungs and doesn’t allow for full expansion. (1, 2)
“The majority of your lung is on your back, not on your front,” Munshi explains in the video. “So by lying on your back, you’re closing off more of the smaller airways and this is not good during the period of infection.” (1)
Is this technique backed by other experts?
In some respects, yes. This technique is based on long-established techniques to help pneumonia patients’ lungs from collapsing. COVID-19 can cause secondary pneumonia in the lungs, which causes patients to experience shortness of breath and difficulty taking deeper breaths. This technique can help patients with their breathing. That being said, it does come with a caution. (2)
COVID-19 Breathing Technique is Not a Cure
Experts are warning people that while this breathing technique is not a bad thing to do, it will not save you. If you happen to have a bad strain of the virus it cannot prevent you from needing to be incubated and put on a ventilator. (2)
Carolyn McCoy, the Director of Accreditation and Professional Practice Services with the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists, told CTV News that seeking medical care if you have symptoms, especially more severe ones, is still of utmost importance. (2)
“Some people with COVID-19, or coronavirus disease, deteriorate very quickly, so I would hate for someone to try and self-manage at home who should be seeking medical attention,” (2)
The Bottom Line
While some people have praised this technique online for having helped them with some of their COVID-19 symptoms, the evidence is still clear that if you feel as though you have someone sitting on your chest or your chest is very tight, you need to seek medical attention. If you are unsure about your symptoms, you can use this Mayo Clinic Self Assessment Tool.
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