Breathlessness and the Post-Pandemic Runner

Posted by Stuart Morrison on

Runners, on the whole, didn't suffer as much as many others during the the height of the COVID pandemic. Being a fairly fit and healthy group of people, with a like for the outdoors, we had less to worry about. Cancelled races, closed running tracks and the possibility of mild symptoms was the most that the majority of us had to contend with. It could've been much worse.

However, although the outbreak is now broadly under control, we are now noticing a significant number of runners reporting breathlessness, causing obvious frustration and worry. What could be the cause?

breathless runner

1. COVID-19
Although COVID is 'under control', the pandemic isn't over. As hospital staff and GPs will tell us, thousands of people are still being infected. Unfortunately the current dominant strain of the virus is quite adept and spreading, and shortness of breath is one of the symptoms.

2. Long COVID
A few of those who contracted COVID have been left with a condition known as Long COVID. This is when is when those previously infected show ongoing symptoms of COVID after the infection has gone.

Long COVID can vary. It may involve any one or selection of COVID-related symptons. Its severity can also differ greatly from one person to the next. For some this may include restriction of lung function.

3. Working from home
An indirect and significant change caused by the pandemic has been an increase in working from home. At the same time some medical professionals have noticed an increase in deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

DVT is when blood clots in the vein. Frequently this happens in one of the legs, and shows up as swelling, pain or red discolouration. If reported early enough, it can be fixed quite easily. However, if not dealt with, clots can migrate to to the lungs, causing what is called pulmonary embolism, blocking blood flow in the lungs. This is potentailly very serious, and will cause notable breathlessness.

The 2 main causes of DVT are sitting for a long time, and dehydration. These can be easily prevented. Avoid sitting for an excessive amount time by taking breaks and being more active. And, prevent deydration by drinking at least 1.5 to 2 litres of fluid a day (enough to make your pee straw-coloured).

4. Aging
Unfortunately, something none of us can avoid. And hopefully not a major contributing factor. The uncomfortable fact is that we are all 2 years older than when the pandemic started. :(

We hope the above is helpful. If you have any concerns about breathless, please see your GP, or contact the NHS (dial 111) without delay.