Covid and Influenza: Managing The Long-Term Effects At Home

26 August 2022

The World Health Organization estimates that 290,000 to 650,000 people die of flu-related causes every year worldwide. As Influenza re-emerges in Malaysia, coupled with the rising number of Covid-19 cases, this has become a major public health concern. At least, it is comforting to know that the mortality rate in Malaysia is lower than other countries according to Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. This might be due to high accessibility to flu shots and vaccines that have played a vital part in patients’ recoveries.

Post recovery, both Covid-19 and Influenza patients may continue to suffer from lingering symptoms like anxiety, fatigue, and breathing problems for weeks after infection. Most patients improve over time, though some take months, or in dire cases, years. Therefore, it is essential that each patient take precautionary measures in their long-term recovery journey by seeking help from healthcare professionals before it’s too late.

Long Covid/Influenza symptoms

Studies show a protein in the Influenza virus that helps it multiply and damages lung epithelial cells, causing fluid build-up in the lungs. A bad case of Covid-19, on the other hand, can produce scarring and other permanent problems in the lungs.

“Predominantly, long Covid patients are elderlies because of their weak immunity. Moreover, adults with heart or lung diseases are prone to these respiratory diseases as their airways are much narrower,” Dr Kow Ken Siong, Consultant Respiratory Physician at Sunway Medical Centre, Sunway City shares.

Post respiratory disease symptoms vary for everyone, which includes:

  • Constant tiredness
  • Brain fog
  • Persistent headache
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Prolonged cough

Symptoms like these can be treated, but it will take time. Gradually, lung tissue heals from scarring, but it will take months or years for a person’s lung function to return normal. It is also important to note that lung healing from respiratory diseases will produce its own set of symptoms as well. Patients will experience discomfort as the healing process starts and through treatments and therapy will the doctor then only be able to determine which stage of recovery a patient is in.

Home exercises to strengthen the respiratory system


Walking, though one of the easiest exercises, is the best way to regain your strength. Set short realistic goals, and start slow by walking in your house for 10-15 minutes. If you feel comfortable without any shortness of breath, you can gradually increase it by 5 minutes. Walking improves circulation and strengthens the tissue around your lungs, helping them function.

Yawn to a smile (Breathing exercise)

This exercise helps to increase coordination and build strength in the arms and shoulder muscles. It will also help to open up the muscles in the chest to allow the diaphragm to fully expand.

  1. Sit upright with a straight back. This can be done on the edge of our bed or in a sturdy chair.
  2. Stretch your arms up to shoulder height, overhead. Then open your mouth wide and create a big stretching yawn.
  3. Bring your arms down and turn that yawn into a smile for three seconds.
  4. Repeat the process for one minute.

Humming (Breathing exercise)

Humming helps to increase nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide helps with neural plasticity (building and repair of the nervous system), and it dilates blood vessels, pulling more oxygen into the lungs with each breath. Humming can also reduce stress as it calms and soothes the mind.

  1. Sit upright with a straight back and place your hands around the sides of your stomach.
  2. Retain your lips closed and rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
  3. Breathe deep and slow through your nose and spread your fingers while you're doing so.
  4. Keep your body relaxed and when your lungs are full, exhale while humming, making the “hmmm” sound.
  5. Repeat by inhaling and exhaling through your nose while humming.
  6. Do this for several breaths.

Treatment and Rehabilitation

Each patient’s symptoms may vary, so it's important to seek consultation from your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing. Assessments must be made by these individuals:

  • Rehabilitation physician
  • Physiotherapist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Dietitian
  • Clinical psychologist

After being assessed, consultants will then follow up with rehabilitation sessions involving Physiotherapy or Occupational Therapy. These comprehensive assessments and rehabilitative treatments aim to regain a patient’s strength, endurance, and cognitive function after their infection with Covid/Influenza.

Sunway Medical Centre urges patients to seek a multi-disciplinary and comprehensive rehabilitation team to aid them in their recovery. The team needs to consist of specialists that will conduct a comprehensive assessment and create a personalised plan to help patients in their journey toward optimal recovery.

Source: The Vibes