My Fight with Covid-19: An Asthmatic’s Guide to Coronavirus.

“Respiratory failure is known to have been identified as the major cause of death in the previous viral pandemics.” But then fighting such battles becomes far more strenuous when your lung function is already less than 60% of a normal human being’s, doesn’t it?

Howdy, stranger.

My name is Prakhar Prabhakar, and I tested Positive for Covid-19 early in October ‘20 and it’s still an ongoing battle.

I also happen to be someone who has endured the spleen of major asthma (T4: Severe Persistent) throughout his life, ergo, shortness of breath and the usage of bronchodilator inhalers/ nebuliser machines have both had a very familiar presence in my life since early childhood- a feeling that I’m sure most other asthmatic patients relate to. That being said, the current pandemic does tend to take the situation just a tad bit too far – you may find yourself constantly struggling for breath even more than you did during your passing dyspnea, you may also observe your spO2 levels dropping rapidly, which is a cause for alarm. You may experience unrelenting weakness for weeks with your immune system attacked, while the fluctuating temperatures and incessant dry cough may ruin the sanctity of your daily life. And I haven’t even begun on the psychological battle you’ll be fighting every single day once things begin to escalate, or the weakness that comes in the aftermath. That’s right, I have experienced each and every one of those things in the last few weeks.

Please note – the aim here, is to take you through some of the simple activities, home remedies and dietary changes that will actually make things better for you during this phase. I will also list down the medicines that were prescribed to me by my doctors, but I would advise you to not take any drugs without personal medical supervision. I have tagged research studies on the effectiveness of these drugs in some hyperlinks later in the article, for your convenience. Now, my site statistics inform me that on any given day, roughly at least 170 of you glance through the articles on this site. And if those modest viewership numbers are sound, I reckon I can put forward this crucial piece of information on this platform and expect it to be helpful for at least someone out there – please note, this is applicable not just to asthmatics, but also the rest of the general population who may be experiencing certain symptoms and are early in the diagnosis stages. These are fairly simple things to counter the various stages of the virus attack, as well as enhance your immune system along the way. So here goes –

The Legendary “Six Deep Breaths & a Cough” Routine

The Legendary ‘Six Deep Breaths & a Cough’ Routine:

Take five deep breaths in, and hold your breath for at least 5-7 seconds each time and then let it out with ease. If you feel the need to cough during these five breaths, try your best to suppress it, don’t expectorate just yet. The sixth time you take that deep breath in, hold it for just a tad bit longer, say around 10 seconds. You’ll realise it building up in your upper chest, and at that point – expectorate the cough, no suppression. That’s one cycle – you need at least 2-3 cycles in one routine, and at least 3-4 of those routines a day. Click here for a video demonstration.

Mind you, if at any point during those first five deep breaths, you end up not being able to suppress a cough and expectorate early on, you start that cycle again from scratch. 

A variation of this method suggests that after you’re done with two fluent cycles, you lie down with your face on a pillow and your back facing the ceiling for at least two minutes to complete that one routine. In all honesty, I never did this variation, mostly because I hate pillows, and also the fact that I feel this breaks the flow of the routine. But hey, if it works for you, go ahead.

The Classic “Steam Inhalation” Variations

The Classic “Steam Inhalation” Variations:

Is there a right way to do this? I have no clue. I’ll just tell you the two variations of steam inhalation that worked very well for me. The first one includes a large bowl-shaped kitchen utensil that can hold about 1 litre of water (33.814 fl oz), a towel, a teaspoon and a Vicks Vaporub. Pour boiling water into the utensil, switch off all the fans/air-conditioners in the room for a few minutes and add one teaspoon of Vicks Vaporub into the boiling water. Immediately bend down, ensure that the towel completely covers you and the utensil and don’t leave any pathway for the vapours to escape. Breathe using both, your nose and your mouth – keep it going for at least 7 minutes, give or take a couple and please try not to burn yourself (I’m serious).

The alternate, for most of you lackadaisical souls is to get yourself a steam vaporiser and a few Karvol Plus capsules. I don’t recommend using Vicks in this particular option, hence the capsules. Fill water till the mentioned point on the vaporiser, empty one capsule into it and just take the steam in for at least 10-12 minutes.

My honest opinion is that the first option works far more effectively, but some individuals do complain of dryness in the throat due to the Vicks – something I haven’t experienced. So a more effective approach is an amalgam of both methods wherein you use the Vaporiser three times a day, but also do the Vicks Vaporub-steam routine only once later in the day. If you can pull that off, you’ll be thanking me in a few days.

The Salt-water or Betadine 2% “Gargle” Variations

The Salt-water or Betadine 2% “Gargle” Variations:

Ah, yes. The mystical Betadine gargle. If you have never had a dental job done in your life, chances are that you have managed to completely evade the usage of Betadine 2% Mint-Gargle MouthWash to this day. Not anymore. Now while some doctors recommend that you do Betadine-mouthwash at least 4-5 times a day, I’d tell you to stop at anywhere around 2-3, and I’ll explain why in just a bit. For now though, remember that you’re supposed to take a 1:1 Gargle-Water solution using the cap of the mouthwash bottle, and gargle for a good 40 seconds. Does it burn? Well, yes – but you learn to live with it. The important thing to remember is to not rinse your mouth with water right after the gargle, and also to avoid eating anything for a good 20 minutes right after.

Let’s come back to the “Why just 2-3 times”. Well, because the rest of the 3-4 times, you’ll be gargling with an amalgam of one teaspoon of table salt mixed with 1 cup of drinking water. (For the love of your health, don’t use tap water – there’s a good chance you’ll be swallowing a bit during the gargling process unless you’re a Master Gargler (wait, is that even a thing?) and letting tap water into your system at this time is the last thing you want. Please note, the last line is not applicable to readers from countries where tap-water is drinkable)

End conclusion: 2-3 Betadine Gargles a day + 3-4 Salt Water gargles.

Room to Breathe – “Understanding how to use your back”

Room to Breathe – “Understanding how to use your back”:

If you’re pressing your back consistently against a surface, say for example – your couch, or your bed whilst lying straight on your back for prolonged periods, you’re closing off all the small airways because the majority of your lungs happens to be on the rear side of your body rather than the front. As per a statement from a doctor from Queen’s Hospital (London), this increases your chances of getting secondary pneumonia.

There is a high chance you’ll realise in the early stages that you’ll need to incorporate some changes in your daily life when it comes to your back. Your lungs need their space, and it’s high time you start lying on your chest whilst sleeping, or take a side-ways approach. I am still in this phase where I cannot sit on a chair or my couch with my back rested against it. It will take some getting used to, but in the long run, this simple approach is really going to provide you a better pathway towards normalcy.

The Importance of “Proper Diet and Hydration”

The Importance of “Proper Diet and Hydration”:

While a lot of doctors have emphasised that you should eat whatever you normally do to keep your body in familiar territory and avoid any psychological retaliation, I’d say this isn’t a bad time to clean up your diet. There are some things that one does need to be mindful of –

Cashews are a raw source of zinc, I’m sure ten of those every morning won’t do you much harm. Neither would a few almonds and walnuts. Increase your intake of greens, veggies and salads – as cliched as it may sound, it works – your momma wasn’t lying back in the day, you know. Create a balanced meal, and try to cut the junk food/ fast food/ oily food out as much as possible, especially during night-time. Keep Protein intake fairly high – throw a few eggs in there, and maybe some chicken breasts as long as they ain’t fried (The thumb-rule still applies: 1.2–2 grams protein per kilogram of bodyweight). Oh, and don’t deprive your body of carbs – they’re your primary fuel; just make sure they’re healthy and only in the required quantity.

Now, let’s come to hydration – 5-6 litres of water a day at the bare minimum, and don’t even think about debating here. Hydration is key, and the weakness you’ll experience in the aftermath will need an even higher quantity of water in your diet (I went up to 10 litres a day). Zilch calories, and it flushes your entire system – I don’t think you can put a price tag on that.

Get to know your lungs: “Using a Spirometer”

Get to know your lungs: “Using a Spirometer”:

In the early stages of diagnosis, depending on what your chest CT scans showcase regarding the state of your lungs, you may be advised to use a basic Respirometer or an Incentive Spirometer, but you should get one regardless because it’s a tested method of strengthening your lungs.

Sit up straight, hold the spirometer in your hands and keep it at eye-level. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth and make sure your lips completely cover it from all sides. Breathe in slowly from the mouthpiece, imagining that you’re sucking from a thick straw. The capacity will be indicated in each of the chambers of the tri-ball spirometer. If you feel dizzy or light-headed, keep in mind – it’s perfectly alright. I still can’t do it at the level my doctors advised me and I feel that will be true in the case of most people suffering from pulmonary illnesses. Take it one step at a time – you’ll find a lot of Youtube videos (click here) explaining the use of a Triball Incentive Spirometer/Respirometer.

Self-Care with “Medicines, Home Remedies & Ayurveda”

Self-Care with “Medicines, Home Remedies & Ayurveda”:

Please understand something – when it comes to the prescribed medicines, I would advice you not to take any without ensuring you get a prescription from your own doctor under complete medical supervision. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill illness that dies down in two days. These meds were prescribed to me by my doctor (each include hyperlinks to research studies of these drugs that you can click and read about, in terms of effectiveness) – Azithromycin, Methylprednisolone, Doxycycline, Ivermectin – alongside a bunch of multivitamins, zinc tablets, Etofylline + Theophylline tablets, paracetamol for fever, etc.

Also, for the first 25 years of my life, I did not care much for the concepts of Ayurveda or home remedies, but this year was a bit different. I took a couple of Ayurvedic tablets for boosting immunity religiously which seemed to work rather well for me – Giloy & MSGV. And mind you, this does not need to be brand specific – if you want my two cents, these won’t do you any harm, and may very well work out for you in the long run, seeing that I’ve barely heard any negative testimonies for these.

I also have a habit of drinking warm water mixed with cloves, daalcheeni (Cinnamon), tulsi (basil) and haldi (turmeric). I take this twice a day without fail – the warmer, the better. It really helps if you leave these in boiling water for a good 45-50 minutes, and then reboil the entire amalgam before drinking. If there’s two things I suggest all people to do religiously, it’s this and steam inhalation. Both are pretty darn effective at getting the job done.

The importance of “Regularly monitoring all parameters”

The importance of “Regularly monitoring all parameters”:

I find it rather funny that the only appreciable difference between the Apple Watches Series 5 & 6 was the presence of an spO2 reader on the latter. The world really started taking its health seriously this year, and that’s a good thing – but it is really important to create a health chart and monitor all parameters and understand how things are progressing.

You should know that you’re safe as long as your spO2 levels remain between 96-99, and your oral temperature remains below 100 F (37.8 C). I made it a habit to monitor every thing including my blood pressure, temperature, pulse and spO2 levels on an hourly basis (which is a bit too much, just saying), because the magnitude of fluctuations were unprecedented in my case. I also kept track of when I took each of my meds, steam inhalation or even my meals, and it gave me a better understanding of what things spiked up which particular parameter. It is very important that you do this for yourself, instead of being dependent on other people’s observations expecting that all bodies are completely identical. Let’s face it – they’re simply not. I started taking a silly engineer’s perspective towards all this – if my body was to function as a well oiled machine, which parts were getting in the way of its performance and needed to be modified or replaced? While you don’t need to go bonkers over it, I simply can’t emphasise enough, the importance of maintaining a basic log of your health parameters. Remember, it’s just for yourself – no one else.

The Real Fight: The Weakness and Psychological Battle

The Real Fight: The Weakness and Psychological Battle:

It took a while for me to accept something – this is not something that just hits you for 14 days and leaves. Right around the time when I was hitting my 2-week mark, I felt a level of weakness I had never experienced before. There came a point when I found it hard to get out of my bed every morning, or even walk around twenty steps without feeling the need to sit down and rest. This virus attacks your immune system, and it lets you deal with the repercussions alone in the aftermath. So even if the test shows you’re negative, know this – it’s alright to feel weak.

Also, as I had pointed out right at the beginning – this is more of a psychological battle. You need to realise that a you keeping yourself physically healthy is only one half of the recovery process. The other half requires you to keep yourself patient, as well as motivated. You may be experiencing a plethora of emotions given the state you’re in, but it’s important not to give in to any of those. Learn to keep yourself busy, try to explore activities that you can do in your current state without pushing yourself too hard. If you happen to be someone who used to take a 45-minute run every morning back in the day, know that it is perfectly alright to settle for a 7-minute walk right now if that’s all you’re able to do. The key is not to push yourself too hard in the current state of the unknown, but rather to let it pass through patiently and then bounce back to normalcy. Don’t think even for a minute that I’m not asking you to be strong – I need you to be the strongest you’ve ever been, but with a sound mind. It’s true – we need to pick the battles we fight, and fight we shall! Together.

To everyone out there who is reading this – I don’t know how this journey ends. You don’t either, and to be honest – no one does. But keep in mind, you’re not alone in this. Not now, not ever. We will bounce back together, and we will be stronger. Why, you ask? Because I’m sure we’ve all endured so much in our respective lifetimes – this isn’t our first battle, and it sure as hell won’t be our last. Feel free to reach out to me anytime in case you have some questions or even if you want to have just a passing conversation at prakharprabhakar@gmail.com, I’ll make sure I revert at the earliest. That’s all for now, folks! Until next time, take care. PP Out. :’)

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