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How COVID-19 Affects Your Lungs

May 19, 2020
An old man with COVID-19 wearing a face mask

How does COVID-19 affect the lungs?

  1. When First Transmitted: It Travels To Your Airways
  2. Shows Symptoms
  3. In Mild and Moderate Cases: Inflammation
  4. In Severe Cases: Fluid and Debris
  5. In Critical Cases: Damaged Walls and Linings
  6. Possible Pneumonia
  7. The Aftermath and Post-COVID-19


COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that spreads by droplets through coughs, sneezes, and infected surfaces that you touch. Infected patients are being attached to ventilators, families are losing their loved ones, and the number of confirmed cases increases day by day. During these frightening times, it’s best to be prepared by reading up on the effects of COVID in the lungs.

Some recovering patients have shared hospitalization stories about how agonizing the aggressive life support they needed was due to their difficulty breathing. On the other hand, mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 can be monitored and managed at home. You can use over-the-counter medications, fluids, and a strict 14-day period of isolation. Either way, this virus has truly changed the lives of many.

Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at the phases of COVID-19 and how your respiratory tract deals with the virus. From the moment it is contracted to the aftermath of it all. Read on!


When First Transmitted: It Travels To Your Airways

Graphics of COVID-19 entering a person's airways

Let’s say that you have unknowingly come into contact with a COVID-19 infected individual or surface. It starts by traveling through the mucous membranes of your nose, mouth, and eyes. From there, it begins to enter inside the healthy cells, makes copies of itself, multiplies, and latches on to the lungs. These healthy cells eventually get killed when the COVID-19 virus takes command.

COVID-19 can either infect the upper or lower respiratory tract. It travels through the airways and irritates as well as inflames the lining. In some cases, COVID-19 can reach all the way into the alveoli, the part of your lungs that exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules to and from the bloodstream.


Shows Symptoms

Once the virus has made its way through your lungs, your body may respond by showing COVID-19 symptoms within 2 to 14 days. The symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Body aches and pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat


In Mild and Moderate Cases: Inflammation

A woman self-medicating mild COVID-19 symptoms at home

In mild and moderate cases, the virus travels through the respiratory tract, and the immune system will try its best to fight back. This inflames and swells the lungs and airways. People with mild symptoms can usually manage and treat it at home with over-the-counter medicine.

However, if you are getting yourself checked, your doctor may have you undergo a chest x-ray. In mild to moderate cases, the lungs may look like frosted glass. This is what they call “ground-glass opacity”.


In Severe Cases: Fluid and Debris

On the other hand, in severe cases of COVID-19, the infection affects both of the lungs. The swelling of the lungs and airways is worse in severe cases. In addition, your lungs will fill with fluid and debris. This is usually the time you should be consulting medical care. Instead of an x-ray, you may be asked to undergo a CT scan of your chest. Results of severe COVID-19 will show that the lungs look like they are starting to connect with each other.


In Critical Cases: Damaged Walls and Linings

A man on a medical ventilator due to COVID-19

You are most likely to be admitted and confined in a hospital when you have a critical case of COVID-19. This is where the infection damages the walls and linings of the air sacs in your lungs. While your body tries hard to fight it, your lungs will become more inflamed and filled with fluid and debris. This is where your lungs will have a hard time swapping oxygen and carbon dioxide. Patients at this stage will need help from a ventilator to support their breathing.


Possible Pneumonia

When you contract COVID-19, you may also develop pneumonia (a lung infection in which the alveoli are inflamed). Pneumonia that is caused by COVID-19 can be more severe as it is also a respiratory disease. It can affect many parts of the lungs and cause shock as well as organ damage.

Pneumonia causes the air sacs to become more infected and inflamed. You may experience severe difficulty breathing and a lack of oxygen flowing through your blood. Cases of COVID-19 related pneumonia should be treated in the hospital.


The Aftermath and Post-COVID-19

A man recovering while healing from COVID-19

Once you’ve conquered severe and critical cases of COVID-19, it can take time for you to feel better, especially if you’ve developed pneumonia. Since you’ll most likely be confined during this time, your doctors will know the best time for you to be discharged. In your day-to-day life, you may feel more tired than usual and may not be as active as you used to be. Some individuals have also shown coughing, while others had scarring in their lungs.


Key Takeaway

With confirmed cases increasing in the Philippines today, you might be curious about what really happens with COVID in the lungs. Mild to moderate cases can usually be treated at home, however, when a mild case of COVID-19 turns serious, it can lead to severe lung damage.

If your COVID-19 symptoms worsen, get help from the Perpetual Help Medical Center in Las Pinas to get the best treatment and medical attention.

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