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Why does one require a post COVID Rehab?

Dr Suneetha Narreddy

Infectious Disease Specialist, MD; ABIM

3 min read


We know that when one contracts diseases that require ICU-level hospitalization – the more and the sooner rehabilitation takes place, the better the outcome will be. The word COVID-19 has been deeply ingrained in our minds. While a lot is known about the virus, much needs to be still discovered. All COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization, experience some extent of physical debility. The disease is known to weaken them resulting in a loss of strength. With no rehabilitation, post-COVID-19 patients will continue to experience weakness and cognitive damage for a very long time or even permanently!

Physical disability and weakness is targeted during treatment in rehabilitation. Though the cognitive changes may not be too obvious initially, they can pose to be dangerous in terms of the patient’s safety. Cognitive rehabilitation facilitates patients to optimize their thinking abilities – it teaches strategies to optimize cognitive functioning.

COVID-19 affects individuals differently and the range of symptoms is wide. The treatment methods are extensive too. COVID rehab is a thorough assessment and an individualized, progressive treatment plan that attempts to maximize the functionality of a patient. It’s time to get educated about some important aspects regarding COVID rehab.


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  • 10-15% of the total affected population face prolonged symptoms. These include fatigue, headache, and fever, shortness of breath, joint pain, chest pain, brain fog, impaired memory, and loss of taste and sleep issues. The symptoms last up to three weeks to six months.
  • The risk of prolonged illness is more for elderly people and for those who are obese or have high blood pressure, disturbed mental health and respiratory problems.
  • COVID-19 affects multiple parts of the body including the heart, lungs, brain, nervous system, musculoskeletal system and others.
  • During rehabilitation, doctors check for the patients’ full history from the date of the first symptom. They evaluate basic health checkpoints like the temperature, heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure etc. This is followed by a respiratory examination, blood tests, functional status check, pulse oximetry and clinical tests.
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  • Medical management during COVID rehab includes treating fever with paracetamol, optimising control of long-term conditions, considering antibiotics for secondary infection and treating specific complications. Listening and empathy too forms an important aspect of rehabilitation.
  • The self-management tips include checking daily pulse with an oximeter, maintaining general health, getting enough rest, gradually increasing exercise levels and setting achievable targets. It’s most important to strictly avoid smoking, alcohol and caffeine.
  • Rehab includes a set of multidisciplinary experts like physiotherapists, physicians, psychologists, occupational therapists, pulmonologists, and hospital teams.
  • Post COVID rehab is essential for patients with impaired lung function, physical deconditioning, delirium, cognitive impairment, impaired swallowing, and reduced communication abilities, mental health disorders and psychosocial support needs.
  • It’s necessary for rehabilitation to only begin in the post-acute phase as it shouldn’t overload the respiratory system and cause distress.
  • Monitoring during rehab includes looking for shortness of breath, decreased SaO2, BP, heart rate, temperature, excessive fatigue, chest pain, severe cough, blurred vision, dizziness, heart palpitations, sweats, loss of balance and headache.
  • The components of rehab include muscle training with a positive expiratory pressure device to keep the lungs healthy, cough exercises, diaphragmatic training, chest stretching, and pursed lip-breathing. It includes functional assessment to check muscle joint range of motion, strength testing, and balance too.