COVID-19: How to Prevent ARDS

As the number of COVID-19 cases is growing with a terrifying speed, hospitals are under pressure to save the lives of critically ill patients. Many of them develop a life-threatening condition known as ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome). A recent study revealed that as many as 17% of 99 patients who tested positive for coronavirus in Wuhan, China, had developed ARDS while they were ill. 

Statistically speaking, people over 65 years of age have a greater risk of developing ARDS due to a weaker immune response.

How does it happen? When the virus gets to the lungs, it causes the inflammation in their mucous membranes. As a result, the fluid from blood vessels around leaks into small air sacs in the lungs, which makes breathing difficult. 

How to diagnose ARDS

Acute respiratory distress syndrome is typically accompanied with the following symptoms:

  • shortness of breath
  • oxygen deficiency in arterial blood
  • rapid breathing
  • bilateral pulmonary infiltrates
  • dizziness
  • excessive sweating

How to treat ARDS

ARDS doesn’t let the lungs provide the vital body organs with sufficient oxygen, which might lead to multiple organ failure.

Since there is no direct cure for this condition, ARDS treatment is supportive and generally consists of:

  • mechanical ventilation
  • nutritional support
  • sedatives and sometimes paralytics to adjust to the ventilation

Under normal conditions, the underlying cause should be treated as well, but when ARDS is caused by COVID-19, it’s still unknown which treatments are the most effective. It might take months to figure it out. 

The mortality rate of ARDS, although it has significantly improved over the recent years, constitutes a staggering 30%-40%. Sadly, the survivors can be left with a severe lung damage that might take up to 15 years to treat.

ARDS prevention

Is there anything you can do to prevent ARDS from developing? First of all, do your best not to get infected with coronavirus by following these seemingly simple recommendations:

  • Practise social distancing. Forget about hugs, kisses, and even handshakes for a while. After all, they can be replaced with air-fives. Avoid crowded places and stay at home as much as you can.
  • Don’t touch your face when you’re out. Especially in a germ-filled grocery store. It can be challenging as we often do it unthinkingly, but this is how the coronavirus gets more chances to get into your nose, mouth or eyes.
  • Wash your hands whenever you come home, arrive at your destination, or after you touch any surfaces that might contain germs. Do it thoroughly and vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Use a tissue to turn the wet faucet off once your hands are clean. You can dry them using a cloth towel, but make sure you don’t share it with anyone else. Wiping your hands on your clothes wouldn’t be the best idea. If possible, use liquid soap.
  • Use an antiseptic hand sanitizer when washing your hands is impossible. It must contain at least 60% alcohol to be effective. 

Tips on boosting your immune system

What else can be done to stay safe? Boost your immune system, thus increasing your chances of having a mild form of the illness if you catch the coronavirus, without developing all the morbidities associated with Acute respiratory distress syndrome. 

Although bolstering your immune system can’t be done overnight, the sooner you start doing something in this direction, the better. Here are some tips on how to prepare your immune system for the fight against COVID-19:

Stop worrying. Talk to your therapist, practice meditation and yoga, etc. Stress levels need to be reduced as close to zero as possible even though it’s hard to do amidst this coronavirus panic. The hormone of stress, cortisol, suppresses our immune system, thus making us more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses. It’s no joke. In a number of studies, it has been demonstrated that people with low stress levels are less likely to catch a cold.

Take omega-3 fatty acids. They will enhance the way your immune cells function. If you feel that there isn’t enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, you can get them in Generic Omega-3-acid Ethyl Esters. The list of foods that are high in omega-3 includes most nuts, salmon, mackerel, herring, cod liver oil, caviar, flax seeds, chia seeds, soybeans, spinach, Brussel sprouts, etc.

Reconsider your sleep habits. Sleep-deprivation is really bad for your immune system. If you suffer from insomnia, talk to your doctor and discuss the possible treatment. Seven hours of sleep a night is the required minimum. To ensure a solid shut-eye, try to avoid screen time right before going to bed, fight night-eating habits, and stick to a certain schedule. 

Say no to excessive alcohol consumption. There is a link between alcohol and immunosuppression. Those who do not adhere to moderate drinking lifestyle are more susceptible to pneumonia, and other respiratory diseases. Also, their recovery period is typically longer than those who do not drink too much alcohol. Even if you are just a binge drinker, it might be damaging for your immune system. A glass of wine or a beer once in a while is totally fine, but don’t make it a regular thing.

It would be a mistake to think that COVID-19 is just another virus that will pass. Take it seriously and stay safe.

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