What is ARDS?
ARDS or acute respiratory distress syndrome is a lung condition that causes fluid to build up in the tiny sacs(alveoli) of your lungs. These sacs help in transferring the inhaled oxygen into the blood. Fluid accumulation can reduce the concentration of oxygen in the blood. Insufficient amounts of oxygen impair the organ functions and eventually leads to organ failure.
ARDS is a medical emergency condition and can develop due to any serious illness or injury. It can occur within a few hours or a day of the original trauma. Although some patients of ARDS do recover, the risk of death increases based on age and severity of the underlying cause.
What lifestyle changes to make after ARDS?
ARDS is a life-threatening condition. Recovering from ARDS can take a long time.
Although some people with ARDS recover completely, chronic lung conditions secondary to ARDS are frequent. By adopting a few changes in your life, you can improve the health of your lungs. Although these changes may not directly influence your healing ability, it can provide your lungs the opportunity to recover.
Here are some tips to enhance your lifestyle following ARDS:
Schedule time for deep breaths
Shortness of breath and labored breathing are the first signs of ARDS. ARDS can affect your lung functions and reduce the capacity of your lung.
Doctors recommend pulmonary rehabilitation to recover from ARDS. Breathing exercises can help you regain the correct mechanics of breathing and help reduce fatigue. Deep breathing (breathing from your belly) can significantly improve your lung capacity. Even 2-5 minutes of these breathing activities can prove beneficial to your lungs.
Dedicate some time of the day where you can relax back and take deep breaths. It will help you be more mindful of the way you breathe. Additionally, it will also calm your mind.
Depending on the severity and the duration of your ARDS, your physiotherapy treatment may involve:
- Effective/productive coughing techniques
- Postural drainage in sitting and lying
- Manual help, including vibrations, shaking and percussion
Breathing technique retraining:
- Controlling respiratory rate
- Diaphragmatic breathing
- Reducing/controlling breath volume
- Relaxation breathing exercises
Smoking introduces various toxic products such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar in your lungs. These toxins irritate and inflame your lung tissues. In an attempt to cleanse your lungs of these toxins, there is an increase in mucus secretion. Gradually, airways get narrow, affecting your breathing.
ARDS already reduces the oxygenation of the different organs in your body. Chronic smoking can further deteriorate your lung condition.
Quitting smoking can be challenging and may even need several attempts. Counseling and medications may be helpful to kick the habit.
Reduce exposure to pollutants
Pollutants can irritate the lung tissues and accelerate the damage in your lungs. A healthy lung can withstand these toxins. However, post-ARDS, your lungs become vulnerable to various diseases. You can reduce pollutant exposure by doing the following,
- Avoid second-hand smoke. It can be damaging to your lungs.
- Avoid going out in heavy traffic. Pollutants from the exhaust are high during peak hours and heavy traffic.
- Minimize the pollutant levels in your home with frequent dusting and deep cleaning.
- Avoid using artificial air fresheners and candles that contain additional chemicals such as benzene. Switch to essential oil and aroma diffusers instead.
- Allow plenty of ventilation in your homes. Keep the windows open and make use of exhaust fans in your home.
- If you work in mining, construction, waste management, or any such industry, you are at risk of exposure to pollutants. Ensure you take all safety precautions.
Reduce the risk of infection
Infections are more likely to occur if you already have had ARDS. Also, lungs are susceptible and can develop severe complications following a respiratory infection. It is best to prevent respiratory tract infections.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes and face frequently.
- Boost your immune system with wholesome meals, ample sleep, and regular physical activities.
- Get your flu shots on time. These shots can help reduce the impact of the infections on your lungs.
Drinking sufficient amounts of water is just as beneficial to your lungs as it is to your body.
Dehydration can affect the mucus secretions of your lungs. Reduced water content can make the mucus thick and sticky. Your lungs may not be able to clear these secretions causing chest congestions. Congestion can increase your risk of secondary infections and other respiratory disorders.
Although drinking sufficient water may not improve your lung functions directly, it can protect your lungs during the recovery period.
ARDS causes inflammation and damage to the lungs. As you are recovering from the condition, you have to take precautions with your diet. Few foods can increase the inflammatory chemicals in your body. It can affect the healing process of your lungs.
A diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods can be particularly beneficial for lung functions as you recover from ARDS.
Enhance your posture
A slouched posture can affect the breathing mechanisms. When you slouch, the chest is unable to expand adequately. Any alteration in the biomechanics of breathing can increase your energy expenditure.
Incorporating basic stretching exercises and chest expansion exercises in your daily routine can improve your breathing mechanism.
Visiting your doctor
Recovery from ARDS is usually a team approach. You will need to work together with your doctor and respiratory therapist to regain your lung functions.
If you have any respiratory problems such as shortness of breath, coughing, pain during deep breathing, chest congestion, or fever, consult your health provider immediately. Your lungs will be more susceptible to infections and other illnesses as they recover from ARDS.
Request an appointment at Apollo Hospitals
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It takes time, possibly even years, to recover after ARDS. Often ARDS can result in chronic lung disorders.
Regular exercising, avoiding contact with airborne pollutants and pathogens, having a wholesome diet, and adequately hydrating yourself are lifestyle changes that can be beneficial for lung health. Incorporate these changes in your life to help improve your lungs to recover and heal. By focusing your attention on these activities, you can optimize your lung functions.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. How to detect ARDS?
A. There is no specific test for the detection of ARDS. Usually, the doctors diagnose ARDS based on detailed physical exams, oxygen saturation, and chest X-ray.
Q. What is the prognosis of ARDS?
A. ARDS can be fatal. Survival depends on age, the actual cause of ARDS and associated comorbid factors. Around 36-50% of people with ARDS may die due to the condition. But, some can recover completely.
Q. How long does it take to recover from ARDS?
A. Recovery following ARDS varies from person to person. Usually, it takes months to a couple of years for the lungs to regain their function. Even then, people may have shortness of breath and exertion, which requires oxygen supplementation.