If you have a current heart or lung condition, speak to your health care professional to make sure you’re getting the right treatment for your symptoms.
While recovering from coronavirus, you might find that you regularly get breathless. This might happen when going for a walk, carrying your shopping, or going up or down the stairs.
You might feel anxious or scared when this happens, but there are a few ways you can manage your breathlessness.
Practising breathing control and breathing techniques can help you prepare for these situations. Finding a position to help you recover from breathlessness can also be helpful, as this will help control your breathing. It will also help you relax.
Watch our breathlessness videos. They show you positions and techniques that can help when you’re breathless.
You might also find it useful to watch videos from the Physiotherapy for Breathing Pattern Disorders website on assessing your breathing pattern. There’s also a series of breathing guides for when sitting, standing, or lying down.
Remember: seek help urgently if you become unusually breathless or your breathing gets worse.
Understanding your symptoms
If you’re living with longer-term symptoms of COVID-19, you might need more help and support than you’re currently getting.
Fill out the My Long COVID Needs assessment to help you understand your needs and get advice on what you should do next.
You can use your assessment results to help you explain your symptoms to your GP. Showing your summary report to your GP may make it easier to get referred to local support services, such as a Long COVID Clinic, or help for problems such as work, money, and mental wellbeing.
Using oxygen at home
Some people with Long COVID may be prescribed home oxygen therapy if their blood oxygen levels are low.
You might need oxygen all day, with a few short breaks, or you might just need it for activities such as washing, dressing and other daily activities.
Most people who need to use oxygen at home continue to lead a normal life, doing the things they like. However, if you have any worries, speak to your GP or other health care professional.
Help eating and drinking
While you’re recovering, you might find that you have less of an appetite than usual. You might also have difficulty swallowing, which could affect how much food and drink you’re able to have. Sometimes eating can make you feel more breathless too.
To get your appetite and weight back to normal, you could:
- eat smaller portions, so meals feel more manageable
- try food that is easier to swallow
- allow more time for eating, as you might need to eat at a slower pace
- make sure that you are in a comfortable, upright position to eat.
We have more information to help you if you’ve lost weight.
Chest pain is a common symptom that people experience while recovering from coronavirus. However, it’s possible that your chest pain could be caused by something not related to coronavirus, so it’s important to get urgent medical advice if your chest pain is new.
One of the causes of chest pain or discomfort can be a poor breathing pattern. Make sure you are breathing normally and not moving the upper part of your chest too much while you are resting. Physiotherapy for breathing pattern disorders have more information on how to assess your breathing.
It's also important not to ignore chest pain that’s brought on by exercise, which then gets better when you rest. This could be angina.
If you have lasting lung damage
Most people will make a full recovery from coronavirus. However, for some people, the effects of COVID-19 can cause lasting lung damage.
The effects from COVID-19 can include:
- acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
- sepsis (a life-threatening reaction to an infection).
Your risk of lung damage from COVID-19, as well as how likely you are to recover and improve lung function, can be affected by:
- how severe your COVID-19 infection was – milder cases are less likely to cause lasting scars on your lungs
- existing health conditions – some conditions can increase your risk of getting worse COVID-19 symptoms. These include COPD and heart disease
- age – older people can be more at risk of severe COVID-19, as their immune system and lungs may be weaker
- treatment – what care you get and how quickly you receive it can affect your chances of getting lung damage. This is why patients who are very ill with COVID-19 should get the right help quickly.
Our breathlessness videos have been designed to help people who are living with Long COVID. This information is available in English, Bengali, Gujarati, Mandarin and Urdu:
- Watch: Introduction to breathlessness
- Watch: Breathing control
- Watch: Techniques for managing breathlessness
- Watch: Breathing techniques for moving and lifting
Join our Long COVID support group
Join our support group for people who have breathlessness as a result of Long COVID, in partnership with Covid Aid.
You’ll learn how to manage and reduce your breathlessness, alongside talks from our nurses on how to speak to your GP about Long COVID. Our health care advisors can also help you work out which benefits you’re entitled to and how to claim them.