NOTE: If you or a loved one believe you have contracted COVID-19 or are having respiratory problems contact your doctor.
Dr. Sarfaraz Munshi from Queen’s Hospital in Romford, England (a suburb of London) posted a video to the internet this week demonstrating a breathing technique one of his head nurses showed him to help patients avoid getting pneumonia from the Sars-CoV-2 Coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, which is especially dangerous for seniors and the elderly.
The video has racked up over 3 million views on YouTube and has been shared tens of millions of times across social media platforms, helping raise awareness on one crucial way to keep people who have contracted COVID-19 alive.
Dr. Munshi starts his video off with a dire warning about how an active infection can easily turn into pneumonia.
“So what I need you to understand is that once you have an active infection you need to be getting a good amount of air into the base of your lungs. The only way you’re going to achieve that is having a technique…” – Dr. Sarfaraz Munshi
The breathing technique Dr. Munshi demonstrated is nothing new and in fact is recommended by Drs, Nurses, Respiratory Therapists, and Physios around the world for those who are sick, especially those with respiratory problems or the flu, to avoid contracting pneumonia. It is also used by those with Cystic Fibrosis to help clear their airways to avoid infection and disease.
The technique is called the Active Cycle of Breathing Technique or ACBT and it is designed to break up phlegm deep in the lungs and move it up through the respiratory system until it is ejected via the mouth.
There are different variations of ACBT used around the globe and for varying reasons. The version of ACBT recommended by Dr. Munshi in his now viral video goes like this:
Step 1: Sit upright and take as deep of a breath as possible. Hold the breath for 5 seconds (say “Five Mississippi” in your head).
Step 2: Release the breath slowly.
Step 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2 four more times, for a total of 5 times before moving to step 4.
Step 4: Take one more deep breath, but instead of holding it for 5 seconds, release your breath with a big cough into a cloth covering your face.
Step 5: Repeat steps 1 though 4 one more time, or for one more cycle for a total of 2 cycles (10 deep breaths and 2 big coughs).
Step 6: Lay down on your bed laying on your stomach or front with a pillow under the upper part of your body. Breathe slightly deeper than normally for at least 10 minutes.
Repeat this technique (steps 1 through 6) a few times per day until breathing becomes normal. Make sure you are in contact with your doctor and that this version of ACBT is right for you.
Very importantly Dr. Munshi warns about spending too much time laying on your back while suffering an infection (i.e. COVID-19, the flu, or the common cold). Especially for older adults and seniors, spending a prolonged amount of time on your back can lead to secondary pneumonia.
Because the Sars-CoV-2 Coronavirus can be causing phlegm build up in the lungs before symptoms become noticeable, it may be a good idea to perform this breathing exercise at least once per day, especially for seniors who live in areas where COVID-19 infections are known to have taken place or who live in nursing homes where it might spread more easily.