Managing lung problems
While recovering from COVID-19, you might find that you become breathless at times, or you're more breathless than normal. There are a few ways you can deal with your breathlessness, depending on the type of problem you're experiencing.
On this page:
- Read: I need to clear mucus from my lungs
- Read: I’m breathless
- Read: I’m struggling with oxygen therapy
- Read: I can’t eat or drink easily
You may find that you have mucus in your chest and that you cough up phlegm. There are some exercises and positions that can help you clear the mucus from your lungs, which you might find useful.
Try following these 3 steps:
Step 1: Breathing control
- This is gentle, relaxed breathing, with your shoulders relaxed.
Step 2: Deep breaths
- Breathe in slowly and deeply
- Gently breathe out, without forcing it
- Do this just 3-4 times, as too many repetitions can make you dizzy
Step 3: Huffing
- Take a medium-sized breath in
- Breath out forcefully for a short time
- Keep your mouth open and use your stomach and chest muscles
- Think ‘huffing’ a mirror to polish it
- Repeat 1-2 times
- Always finish on a cough or huff
When you have finished step 3, go back to step 1 and repeat the steps until your huff is dry twice in a row and you feel your chest is clearer.
Clear as much mucus as you can without getting too tired. Try to do this for at least 10 minutes, but no longer than 30 minutes. Try to do this 2-3 times a day.
You could also ask your GP to refer you to a respiratory physiotherapist for more help.
- Practising breathing control can help. This is a way to breathe gently, using less effort, and is often used in yoga.
- Find a position to help you recover from breathlessness. This will help you to control your breathing and help you to relax.
You may also want to be referred to a respiratory physio for help to manage your breathlessness and also to clear your lungs.
We have comprehensive information about how to manage breathlessness, which you might find useful.
After being discharged from hospital, you may need oxygen therapy if your blood oxygen levels are low. This may be the case whether or not you were treated for coronavirus in intensive care. This oxygen support may be available through:
- home oxygen services
- community respiratory teams.
Read more about the sort of oxygen therapy you might be offered.
The NHS has more information on managing your oxygen at home on the Your Covid Recovery website.
Your body will need more energy to recover after having COVID-19, so it’s important to eat well to help you recover. Have a look at the NHS eatwell guide, which shows you what a balanced diet looks like.
Try to keep to your usual routine for eating and drinking. If you can’t do that, try having more nourishing liquids like soups, juice or smoothies. Being ill with a fever can make you dehydrated, so drink plenty of fluids.
You might find that you get breathless when you eat or drink, or that eating and drinking take effort and make you feel tired. We have a few things you can try if you get out of breath when you eat, which you might find useful to read through. You could also buy frozen ready meals for days when you are very tired, or ask someone else to cook for you.
If you have problems swallowing your food, talk to your doctor. They may refer you to a speech and language therapist for a swallowing assessment. The NHS also has information on how COVID-19 can affect your swallowing and what you can do to help yourself.
You might find you have a dry mouth if you've been having oxygen therapy, although there can be a few different reasons for this. If it's causing you issues, we have a few things you can try if you have a dry mouth.
If you find you’re losing weight or gaining weight without meaning to, get advice from your health care professional. Find out what a healthy weight is for you and what to do if you are under- or overweight.
We’ve developed this information with funding from Garfield Weston Foundation. The Foundation had no influence on the information, which was developed in line with our usual BLF information production process.