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Post COVID Breathing Problem? Pulmonary Rehab Can Help.

Post COVID Breathing Problem? Pulmonary Rehab Can Help.

Pulmonary Rehab Can Help

What if you’re recovering from COVID–19 but you’re still coughing, feeling short of breath going up the stairs, or missing the energy you need to do your daily tasks? What can you do to regain your pre-illness energy?

Washington Hospital’s Outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program offers rehab therapies targeted specifically for recovering COVID patients. “We are seeing patients who didn’t have any respiratory issues before becoming sick with COVID,” says Respiratory Therapist Sherry Harrington. “Many of these are patients who weren’t sick enough to be hospitalized, but continue to suffer from the post-illness effects of the virus. This includes a range of respiratory problems,” she notes.

“Too many people believe there isn’t anything they can do to get relief from these lingering COVID symptoms,” Harrington adds. “But that’s not completely accurate; those symptoms can be managed and patients can experience relief by participating in a rehab program like the one we offer.”

Typically, when patients come to the pulmonary rehab program, they are tested to measure pulmonary function. This diagnostic tool will measure lung volumes, flows and oxygen diffusion to determine if there are any restrictive or obstructive issues.

The therapists develop individual treatment plans for each patient that includes exercise, education and monitoring. The exercise program includes aerobic exercises, strength training, and specific exercises to improve balance and flexibility.

The education segment includes information about managing the symptoms the patient is experiencing, the benefits of the specific exercise program developed for the patient, and the need to continue exercising even after leaving the rehab program.

Washington Hospital hosts a chapter of the Better Breathers for Life Club, a support group for those managing chronic respiratory illnesses, including those recovering from COVID. Participants include patients with a variety of lung and breathing issues, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis and other respiratory diseases. Patients recover at varying rates, which is why continuing with the exercise program is essential and participating in the support group can be very helpful.

A physician’s referral is required to participate in the Outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program. The program is approved for reimbursement by Medicare and most insurance companies. HMO’s will require pre-authorization for coverage.

“If you’re experiencing breathing issues or unusual fatigue following a COVID infection, see your doctor for a referral.” advises Harrington. She adds, “Individuals will need to put in the work and it may take time to see results, but a better quality of life will be well worth the effort.”

For additional information, visit or call the Outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation Department at 510.818.7025. The rehab department is located in the Washington West building at 2500 Mowry Ave. in Fremont.

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