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Short of breath? Is it your heart or Covid-19?

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Covid-19 has affected people across the world since it surfaced in China’s city of Wuhan late last year and one of its key symptoms is tightness of chest and shortness of breath. However, these are the same symptoms for certain types of heart disease, so how does one differentiate?

Dr Chattanong Yodwut, a cardiologist at Bangkok Hospital, said the symptoms of Covid-19 begin in the upper respiratory system, with nasal congestion, runny nose, which later develops into a cough, sore throat, high fever, chills, aches, headache and joint pain.
After that, the virus shifts to the lower respiratory tract and infects the lungs, bringing down the level of oxygen in the blood. At this point, the patient will feel exhausted, short of breath and have palpitations. These symptoms are similar to those for coronary diseases, with the exception of flu symptoms.

Similarly, the symptoms for pulmonary edema or fluid filled lungs does not include flu symptoms. In pulmonary edema the patient will find it difficult to breathe when lying down and will develop a cough.

It is important for chronic heart disease patients to beware that Covid-19 simulates this disease until the symptoms can be quite difficult to distinguish, Dr Chattanong advised.

The Covid-19 virus can be fatal for heart-disease patients, as well those above the age of 65 and suffering from chronic conditions like high-blood pressure, lung disease, cancer, kidney disease, cirrhosis and immune deficiency. Patients with such conditions must be extremely careful in protecting themselves and strictly follow the recommendations of the Public Health Ministry, especially since there is no direct vaccine for the virus.

Heart disease patients who have been infected by Covid-19 virus will show severe symptoms which may lead to myocardial infarction or heart failure. The virus causes the metabolic system to go into overdrive until it causes heart failure. Covid-19 also affects the kidneys, causing the body to fail in expelling water and thus flooding the lungs. The doctor said both these conditions can be fatal or lead to complications that require long periods of hospitalization.

People with chronic heart disease must closely keep watch for any symptoms they may develop, starting from colds, nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, sore throat, a high temperature, chills, aches and joint pain, and immediately rush to the hospital if these symptoms worsen.

Short of breath? Is it your heart or Covid-19?
The best and most effective advice for everybody with chronic conditions is they maintain social distancing, wear a mask, keep their hands clean, eat well-cooked food with their own spoons, keep their daily necessities separate from others and not venture into hotspots. People coming into close contact with such patients must realise that they may be putting them at risk.

Published : April 21, 2020

By : The Nation