“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, 54, recently announced she recovered from a two-week battle with the coronavirus thanks, in part, to a breathing exercise suggested by her husband, who is a doctor in the U.K.
Rowling, who was never tested for the virus, posted a video of the technique that involves inhaling for five seconds, holding your breath for five seconds, and then exhaling. On the sixth big breath, you “do a big cough” she says, while covering your mouth, according to Raw Story. Then you repeat the procedure, lie on your stomach with a pillow in front of you and take slightly deeper breaths for 10 minutes.
Raw Story says that Rowling is not the first to suggest deep breathing to offset one of the main symptoms of COVID-19 — difficulty breathing. While breathing exercises have been prescribed widely for patients with COPD and other lung issues, medical experts caution that clearing out your airways isn’t going to get rid of the infection.
“Most of the viral infections don’t generate a ton of mucus that needs to be cleared out,” Dr. Russel Buhr, a pulmonary and critical care physician at UCLA Health, said, according to Raw Story. “But any sort of deep breathing activity may help with some of symptoms of shortness of breath in part by opening up parts of the lungs that may otherwise not fully be open.”
And Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, MD, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and media spokesperson for the American Lung Association added:
“The breathing exercises can help keep the lungs fully expanded as much as possible, but will it keep you from having worse symptoms? No, that’s really dependent on so many other intrinsic factors. So, I think the breathing exercises have a purpose, especially if you have an underlying pre-existing condition — but keep in mind the breathing exercises will be transient and their effect short-lived.”
According to CTV News.ca the breathing exercises and suggestions in the video are based on long-established techniques to prevent a patient’s lungs from collapsing, but caution that it is not a miracle cure and that anyone having trouble breathing should seek professional care immediately.
“Some people with COVID-19 deteriorate very quickly, so I would hate for someone to try and self-manage at home who should be seeking medical attention,” Carolyn McCoy, the Director of Accreditation and Professional Practice Services with the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists told CTV News.ca. “I can’t stress the point enough.”
Buhr added that even if the breathing exercises don’t necessarily help alleviate COVID-19, they can help with stress management.
“There’s a lot of anxiety going around about all of this and taking the time to do mindful breathing certainly will help with that aspect and may make someone feel better—even if physiologically it’s not making a big difference in the way the lung is working,” he said, according to Raw Story.
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