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HCM describes signs of respiratory distress

In an effort to ensure the public has accurate information, Katelyn Vinklarek, Administrative Director of Post Acute Services for Hill Country Memorial Home Care, shares information from Johns Hopkins University on recognizing the signs of respiratory distress that may indicate the presence of COVID-19.

“Many patients have been asking us what are the signs of COVID-19, and especially what are the differences between the virus and seasonal allergies, colds, or just not feeling well,” Vinklarek said. “We want you to be aware of these as indications that you might need more help. If you do show any of these signs, or if you see someone with these symptoms, call 911 immediately.”

Signs of Respiratory Distress

Below is a list of some of the signs that may indicate that a person is working harder to breathe and may not be getting enough oxygen. It is important to learn the signs of respiratory distress to know how to respond. Always see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Breathing rate. An increase in the number of breaths per minute may mean that a person is having trouble breathing or not getting enough oxygen.

Color changes. A bluish color seen around the mouth, on the inside of the lips, or on the fingernails may happen when a person is not getting as much oxygen as needed. The color of the skin may also appear pale or gray.

Grunting. A grunting sound can be heard each time the person exhales. This grunting is the body’s way of trying to keep air in the lungs so they will stay open.

Nose flaring. The openings of the nose spreading open while breathing may mean that a person is having to work harder to breathe.

Retractions. The chest appears to sink in just below the neck or under the breastbone with each breath or both. This is one way of trying to bring more air into the lungs, and can also be seen under the rib cage or even in the muscles between the ribs.

Sweating. There may be increased sweat on the head, but the skin does not feel warm to the touch. More often, the skin may feel cool or clammy. This may happen when the breathing rate is very fast.

Wheezing. A tight, whistling or musical sound heard with each breath can mean that the air passages may be smaller (tighter), making it harder to breathe.

Body position. A person may spontaneously lean forward while sitting to help take deeper breaths. This is a warning sign that he or she is about to collapse.

SOURCE: The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System hopkinsmedicine.org

“Not all people that contract the virus will have symptoms that are this severe,” Vinklarek said. “But if you are having trouble breathing, are having to work harder to breathe, or experiencing shortness of breath, call 911 or go to the Emergency Room.

Katelyn Vinklarek will discuss this topic and answer questions on Hill Country Memorial’s Facebook Live at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, April 3. 

submitted by Hill Country Memorial Hospital

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