Lung inflammation, damage linked to COVID-19 merits caution, scrutiny

Editor’s note: In our work with the Minnesota Department of Health to promote the need for COVID-19 vaccines, we are […]

Doctor holding up x-ray of lungs.

Editor’s note: In our work with the Minnesota Department of Health to promote the need for COVID-19 vaccines, we are featuring stories about a wide range of topics related to COVID-19. This month’s focus is on lung inflammation. Lucy’s story is one of My COVID Story to be featured on our website. 

My name is Lucy. I work in communications. I also have an active side business making and selling jewelry and knitted items. I volunteer with my children’s schools, our church and a few community groups. My family and I live in Eagan. 

My family and I have been attentive about keeping up on our vaccines and boosters to combat COVID-19. My husband had a mild bout with COVID-19 at the tail end of the Minnesota State Fair. Our son was also ill at about the same time. 

We have always masked up, washed hands and tested frequently. I have arthritis and it’s important for me to stay active and keep moving. 

After Thanksgiving, I became quite ill with COVID-19. Being flat on my back for a few weeks was no fun. My family really had to pick up the slack with household chores and Christmas preparations. I had to take a leave of absence from my job and cancel some holiday-time craft shows that I sell my wares at. 

I developed pneumonia and inflamed lungs. It was terrible! I felt terrible. My lungs hurt so much. All I could do some days was make squeaking noises. 

Talking hurt! (My children may have liked that.) 

At one point I had acute respiratory distress syndrome and had to go to urgent care. 

I am now using an inhaler for breathing problems. My lungs do not hurt as much. There are days when the pain returns.  

I am back at work but have had to cut back on my volunteer activities and my side businesses. I miss all of those things. 

My arthritis has been affected because I am not as physically active. I was in a water aerobics class that disbanded during the pandemic and I have not found a substitute. 

The big worry for me is worrying about permanent lung damage. My doctor said that is possible. I am being monitored very carefully. It could take a year or more for my lungs to recover. I am hopeful that will happen. 

I would urge everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19, despite what happened to me. I cannot imagine what would have happened had I not been vaccinated. The outcome could have been much, much worse. 

From Access Press: There is much good information online about COVID-19 and its impacts on a patient’s lungs and respiratory health. According to a recent study shared by the University of Minnesota, one in four COVID-19 survivors had impaired lung function one year later. 

Older patients, those with more than three chronic conditions, and those with severe cases improved slower than other patients over time, a Dutch study showed. 

A team led by University of Amsterdam researchers evaluated diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO), spirometry results, and health-related quality of life (HRQL) in 301 COVID-19 survivors who underwent at least one lung-function test from May 2020 to December 2021. Median patient age was 51 years, and 56 percent were men. 

The study involved 349 patients total. 

Of the 301 participants who had lung-function testing, 30 percent had mild, 44 percent had moderate, and 26 percent had severe or critical COVID-19. Older age, higher body mass index, more chronic conditions and the presence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic lung diseases other than asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were more common among patients who had severe infections than among those with mild cases. 

A total of 47 percent of patients were hospitalized. On admission, 86 hospitalized patients received low-flow oxygen, 15 required high-flow oxygen, and 29 needed invasive mechanical ventilation. Thirty-nine patients were admitted to the intensive care unit and stayed for a median of six days. 

The study indicated that COVID-related lung damage can be reversed to some degree over time.  

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has detailed information on what COVID-19 can do to a patient’s lungs. The web link below includes information on the different medical conditions COVID-19 can create, and the short-term and long-term impacts on lung health. 

Advice given includes how to stave off less severe lung damage. Of course, everyone needs to avoid getting sick. Mask up, keep vaccines current, wash hands and avoid being with sick people. 

It’s also important to manage chronic health conditions and disabilities. Take medications and monitor conditions as directed. 

Proper nutrition and hydration can also help patients avoid complications of COVID-19.

Johns Hopkins experts also remind everyone that vaccines can aid in the healing process, even if a person becomes ill. People who have not been vaccinated may not heal as smoothly.  

Read about the Dutch study 1 in 4 COVID survivors had impaired lung function 1 year on, study shows 

Read information from Johns Hopkins at COVID 19 Lung Damage

  • Wash your hands! Hands that look can still have icky germs!
  • Work with your care provider to stay healthy. Protect yourself. Vaccines are your best protection against being sick.

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