COVID-19 Infection: What’s The Most Alarming Symptom?

A medical professional has shared what remains to be one of the most alarming symptoms COVID-19 patients experience while battling the novel coronavirus. 

As SARS-CoV-2 continues to wreak havoc in many parts of the United States, many people grapple with the telltale signs of a COVID-19 infection. Among the myriad signs and symptoms of the disease, one has remained to be the most alarming two years into the global health crisis. 

Most Alarming Symptom

Sean Marchese, a registered nurse at The Mesothelioma Center, told health media site Eat This, Not That that shortness of breath has been one of the most alarming symptoms of COVID-19. The symptom is also very common, along with fever and cough.

“Shortness of breath when impacting daily activities or at rest, should be alarming. This symptom is often a sign that your body isn’t receiving enough oxygen. Low oxygen levels can impact the brain, heart and other sensitive organs in the body,” Marchese said. 

He continued, “One of the toughest medical challenges to face during the COVID-19 pandemic is how quickly patients destabilize when they aren't getting enough oxygen. This virus is insidious for lowering someone's oxygen saturation levels and, after enough time, making it extremely difficult to fully recover.”

Lung Damage In COVID-19

The lungs are the organs most affected by COVID-19. Like other respiratory illnesses, the disease can cause long-lasting damage to the lungs, manifested in the shortness of breath patients experience. 

COVID-19 causes several lung complications, such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome and sepsis. Newer variants of the virus have also been found to cause more airway conditions, such as bronchitis, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine

Panagis Galiatsatos, MD, MHS, a lung disease expert at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, said the severity of lung damage caused by COVID-19 depends on the intensity of infection and other factors, such as the presence of underlying medical conditions. He noted that milder infections are less likely to lead to lung tissue scars. 

Addressing The Symptom

The first step to addressing the symptom is recognizing its presence. When a patient feels they are unable to get sufficient air from normal breathing, or if they are having a hard time taking a large enough breath, they are likely experiencing shortness of breath.  

The condition may also include a feeling of tightness in the chest area when inhaling or exhaling. It may also lead patients to gasp for more air since they start feeling like they are breathing through a straw, as per National Jewish Health

Marchese recommended seeking medical attention immediately once a patient finds it hard to breathe while doing menial tasks or even if they are at rest. Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins physical therapist Peiting Lien said “deep breathing exercises” can help restore lung function and aid patients as they go through the COVID-19 recovery process. 

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