Indians suffered worse post Covid lung damage than others, says study; how to improve lung function

As per a new study, Indians Covid survivors suffered significant and greater lung function impairment compared to their Europeans and Chinese counterparts. When it comes to lung damage, Covid seems to have taken a heavy toll on the respiratory health of Indians, as demonstrated by this new study. The study done by Christian Medical College, Vellore on the impact of Covid-19 on the functioning of lungs and quality of life in Indians, was published in the PLOS Global Public Health journal.


The study was done during the first wave of the pandemic in India on 207 Indians, and shows that the Indian subjects developed worse impairment in lung function compared to other published cohorts mostly with Caucasian subjects. This study was designed to study the impact of post-COVID-19 lung damage in patients who have recovered from Covid-19 infection with the help of lung function testing, exercise tolerance, chest radiography and quality of life measurement.

The study added that while most may recover within a year of the infection, others may have permanent lung damage for life. Subjects were made to underwent pulmonary function tests, six-minute walking test, chest radiography, and St. George’s respiratory questionnaire.


“In a large Indian cohort, we have reported the presence of post-Covid-19 residual lung damage, as assessed by lung function tests, exercise capacity, chest radiography and quality of life measurements. Our population reported relatively higher symptomatology and comorbidities and greater lung function impairment, compared to most published studies. We have shown


that post-Covid-19 lung damage results in significant impairment of lung function, quality of life and effort tolerance,” said the study.


In people recovering from COVID-19, there is evidence of potential long-term pulmonary sequelae and associated lung function impairment. The most severe illness in the context of SARS-CoV-2 infection is acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). In some, the ARDS may result in fibrotic interstitial lung disease.


Signs and Symptoms of Post-Covid Lung Damage

Post-Covid lung damage, also known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC) or long COVID, can manifest in various ways, primarily affecting the respiratory system. Individuals recovering from COVID-19 may experience persistent symptoms indicative of lung damage, says Dr Neha Rastogi Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.


  1. Shortness of breath: Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, particularly during physical activity, can persist long after the acute phase of the infection has passed.


  1. Persistent cough: A lingering cough that lasts for weeks or months after the initial infection is common in individuals with post-Covid lung damage.


  1. Chest pain or tightness: Some individuals may experience chest pain or tightness, which can be exacerbated by deep breathing or exertion.


  1. Fatigue: Chronic fatigue is a common symptom of post-Covid lung damage, often accompanied by reduced exercise tolerance.


  1. Decreased exercise tolerance: Individuals may notice a reduced ability to engage in physical activities they once tolerated, due to persistent shortness of breath or fatigue.


  1. Frequent respiratory infections: Vulnerability to respiratory infections may increase following Covid-19, as lung damage can weaken the immune system’s ability to fend off pathogens.


How to treat post-Covid lung damage

Managing post-Covid lung damage involves a multidisciplinary approach aimed at alleviating symptoms and improving lung function, says Dr Rastogi.


Treatment strategies may include:

Pulmonary rehabilitation: Structured exercise programs supervised by healthcare professionals can help improve lung function, endurance, and overall physical health.


Medications: Bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms such as shortness of breath and inflammation in the airways.


Oxygen therapy: In cases of severe lung damage, supplemental oxygen therapy may be necessary to ensure adequate oxygen levels in the bloodstream.


Nutritional support: A balanced diet rich in nutrients and hydration is essential for supporting overall health and aiding in recovery.


Psychological support: Dealing with chronic symptoms can take a toll on mental health. Counselling or support groups may be beneficial in coping with the emotional impact of post-Covid lung damage.


Regular monitoring: Close monitoring by healthcare providers is crucial to track progress, adjust treatment plans as needed, and address any emerging complications.

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