Coronavirus: Doctor reveals breathing technique that could help alleviate symptoms

COVID-19 reports make for harrowing reading, with patients recounting the gruelling stages of their symptoms. More often than not, the symptoms involve intense coughing episodes and trouble breathing. This is because COVID-19 is a respiratory infection so the lungs are hit hardest by the pathogen.


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It is easy to feel like there is nothing you can do to alleviate these symptoms, but a doctor at Queen’s Hospital provides some cause for optimism.

In a video posted to social media, Dr Sarfaraz Munshi, urgent care lead at Queen’s Hospital, has shared a breathing technique which could help relieve the symptoms of COVID-19.

Dr Munshi, attributes the creation of the technique to his colleague Sue Elliot, a director of nursing, uses the techniques regularly with patients in the intensive care unit.

He says that it is imperative for those who have an active infection to make sure that they’re getting a good amount of air in the base of their lungs right from the outset.

How does it work?

To start off, all you have to do is take five deep breaths in and hold each one for five seconds, he explains.

On the sixth inhale, hold the breath for five seconds, and then do a big cough – whilst covering your mouth.

You must then repeat this process.

The next step is to lay flat on your front on your bed with a pillow in front of you.

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And for the next 10 minutes take slightly deeper breaths than usual.

He said: “Please remember, and this is the most important part, lying in bed for prolonged periods on your back will close off the small airways.

“You’ve got to understand, the majority of your lung is on your back, not on your front, so, by lying on your back you’re covering off more of the smaller airways.”

He continues: “This is not good during a period of infection and can lead to atelectasis. This can then lead to a secondary pneumonia that can make your condition deteriorate much further – bearing in mind the patients that are deteriorating are deteriorating because of respiratory problems”.


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The video has gained support from none other than J.K. Rowling.

The best-selling author, who recently revealed she was struggling with COVID-19 symptoms, posted on Twitter: “Please watch this doc from Queens Hospital explain how to relieve respiratory symptoms.

“For last two weeks I’ve had all symptoms of C19 (tho haven’t been tested) & did this on doc husband’s advice.”

She added: “I’m fully recovered & technique helped a lot.”

How do I know if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

According to the NHS, the two main symptoms are:

  • A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • A new, continuous cough

What should I do if I recognise the symptoms?

“Do not leave your home if you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or live with someone who does,” says the health site.

This instruction, known as self-isolation, is designed to reduce the risks of spreading COVID-19 to others.

If you are self-isolating, you must:

  • Not leave your home for any reason, other than to exercise once a day – but stay at least two metres (three steps) away from other people
  • Not go out to buy food or collect medicine – order them by phone or online, or ask someone else to drop them off at your home
  • Not have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home

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