Before the COVID-19 pandemic, recommendations for healthy lungs were consistent: avoid smoking, see your doctor regularly and clean your home to minimize dust and pollen.
Since the onset of COVID, the potential for short and long-term lung damage has increased, which warrants extra precautions so you or a family member doesn’t end up in the hospital.
COVID is a respiratory illness like pneumonia, meaning it can cause lung inflammation and fluid to build up. Unlike pneumonia, both lungs can be affected, leaving less room for oxygen and making breathing more difficult.
As pneumonia caused by COVID progresses, patients can experience coughing and other symptoms, leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a form of lung failure. Patients with ARDS are often unable to breathe on their own and ventilator support may be required to help circulate oxygen.
If the disease remains untreated, sepsis can also set in. Sepsis is an infection that spreads throughout the entire body and causes tissue damage in vital organs.
Depending on the severity of the disease, the effects can linger for a long time. ARDS can be fatal, whether it happens at home or in the hospital. Patients who survive ARDS may still have long-lasting lung scarring.
Older adults, who often have underlying health conditions (diabetes, COPD, heart disease, etc.), should especially take precautions, as the combination of diseases can be very problematic. The best way to protect yourself and your family from the long-term effects of COVID-19, especially as new variants arise, is to get vaccinated and wear a mask whenever possible.