Recovering from COVID-19

Most people who get COVID-19 have a mild to moderate case, while a small group of people suffer from severe symptoms. 

Recovery looks different for each person who gets COVID-19 and depends on a number of factors, including age and general health. The path of recovery for young patients with no pre-existing conditions can look very different from an older patient who has high blood pressure or diabetes.

Some patients feel better after about two weeks, while others have lingering symptoms that can last much longer. Mild to moderate COVID-19 often causes respiratory symptoms. As a physician who specializes in the respiratory system, pulmonologist Dr. Michael N. Newton is an expert at identifying and treating a broad range of conditions that affect the lungs at his practice.   

How COVID-19 affects the respiratory system

As we continue to learn more about how COVID-19 affects the body, we’re understanding more about how it affects the lungs. So far, we know that COVID-19 causes an immune response that disrupts the way oxygen is normally transported.

White blood cells rush in to fend off the virus, releasing inflammatory molecules in the process. The ongoing fight against the virus damages the tiny air sacs in the lungs that take up oxygen and causes excess fluid in the lungs. This causes the characteristic respiratory symptoms that COVID-19 is known for.

Dry cough and shortness of breath are hallmark respiratory symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Patients with mild COVID-19 may experience shortness of breath with little exertion or even while at rest. It may feel as if you’re unable to get enough air when you breathe normally.

What to watch out for during COVID-19 recovery

It’s important to rest and take it easy to aid in your recovery. On average, respiratory symptoms of mild COVID-19 last for about three weeks. A small group of people may have respiratory symptoms that last for more than three weeks.

Close monitoring at home is commonly recommended for mild COVID-19 cases. Call your doctor if you experience persistent or worsening symptoms. Watch out for symptoms that may indicate decreased oxygen levels, including lethargy and confusion.

Additionally, persistent trouble breathing can be a warning sign of pneumonia, and it requires medical assessment. In patients with pneumonia, the lungs become inflamed and fill with fluid. Symptoms to look out for include:

While most people recover from COVID-19 pneumonia, in severe cases, it can progress to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Pneumonia keeps your lungs from filling up with enough air, reducing the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream and depriving your organs of oxygen. It can lead to lung failure. You may need help breathing using a machine called a ventilator.

Recovering from severe COVID-19

Because COVID-19 is a new virus, we don’t have data on long-term recovery after severe COVID-19. About 20% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 experience severe symptoms. Complications such as ARDS and sepsis are life-threatening and require critical care in the hospital. 

An analysis of close to 30 studies reported high rates of lung dysfunction, anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at six months following infection with COVID-19. 

What to do if you have symptoms of COVID-19

Contact your doctor if you have symptoms of COVID-19, such as coughing. Your doctor may advise you to take a COVID-19 test. If you test positive, it’s important to self-isolate for at least 10 days to prevent from spreading the virus to others. 

If your symptoms worsen during isolation, you should call your health care provider. For severe symptoms, seek immediate medical care. Patients with existing pulmonary conditions are at a higher risk of severe symptoms from COVID-19, making it vital to reduce your risk of exposure. 

To learn more and for all of your pulmonary care needs, call us at our Tampa, Florida, office at 813-295-8530 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Newton or book your request online today. 

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