Can In-Home Respiratory Care Help COVID Long-Haulers?

  • May - 01 - 2021
  • Elixair Medical

Elderly man in armchair with oxygen mask onThe world is over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. And though circumstances have calmed somewhat over the last several months, there’s at least one group of people who are still feeling the impact of COVID-19 on their daily lives. They call themselves “long-haulers,” and for these individuals, the novel coronavirus has had long-lasting impacts on their health. While doctors are still finding ways to help these patients (with some relief being found in vaccination), many have turned to in-home respiratory care to assist with their symptoms. Can these treatments help? Keep reading to learn more.

What Is Long COVID?

Before we get into the treatments for these individuals, let’s talk a bit about what exactly this condition is and how many people are suffering for it. The com name for these long-lasting symptoms after a COVID infection is simply “long COVID.” Symptoms often include persistent fatigue, body aches, trouble breathing, and headaches. Patients can also experience difficult concentrating, sleeping, and exercising as a result of these symptoms.

Doctors are still working on pinning down a more precise definition of long COVID. The National Institutes of Health proposed the name post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, or PASC, though the term “long-haulers” seems to have caught on much more quickly. Dr. Anthony Fauci has speculated that long COVID is likely the same as or at least very similar to myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). ME/CFS can be triggered by another infectious illness, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which is also in the coronavirus family of diseases.

But while the technical diagnosis of long COVID might still be a moving target, for those who suffer from it, it’s a very real daily battle. They can struggle to catch their breath during the most basic of daily activities, like climbing the stairs or bringing in the groceries. How do these individuals find relief now, while doctors are still searching for answers?

Treating with Physical and Occupational Therapy

Many COVID long-haulers are put into physical and occupational therapy programs that help them rebuild the strength and endurance needed to perform basic daily activities. For some individuals, even simply getting out of bed and walking to the bathroom unassisted can feel impossible. For these people, low-intensity rehab that includes exercises focused on balance, flexibility, and muscle strength can help them to regain the mobility they need to resume their daily lives.

Patients may also be taught how to perform certain tasks a little differently so that they can maintain some level of independence, even if they can’t perform tasks like the once did. Everyday tasks like using the stairs, dressing, and showering have to be relearned in a way that accommodates significantly diminished endurance. As the patient regains their strength and lung capacity, they can slowly begin to return to performing these tasks as they used to.

Treating with Supplemental Oxygen Therapy

Post-COVID, many patients have a diminished lung capacity. They’re unable to catch their breath, and easily feel weak and fatigued as a result. Supplemental oxygen—both in the hospital and at home—can help them to breathe more easily.

Oxygen therapy isn’t simply about helping a patient who is lying in bed to breathe easier. Allowing them to catch their breath more easily can make it possible for them to walk a little farther and do a little more than they could without supplemented oxygen. It can be a pivotal part of their physical and occupational therapy as well, helping them to get the most out of every session before they become too tired to continue safely.

How Long Does It Last?

Because we’ve been dealing with COVID-19 for only about a year and a half, it’s impossible to say exactly how long many of these long-haulers will be dealing with their symptoms. As mentioned previously, vaccinations have been shown to help reduce long COVID symptoms. But millions still struggle with the effects of this illness, with roughly 30 million Americans reporting prolonged COVID symptoms as of February this year.

If you’re one of the millions who struggles with long COVID, we urge you to seek relief in any way possible. Talk to your doctor about physical and occupational therapy, and ask about having supplemental oxygen prescribed for your home use. We can supply oxygen therapy equipment and bill your insurance if you have a physician’s prescription. And we encourage you to get vaccinated, in the hopes that you can be one of the many long haulers who have seen an improvement in their symptoms.