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How best to breathe during the COVID-19 pandemic

Breathing to help prevent viral transmission

Please note, none of these techniques will stop COVID-19, but should reduce the viral load if you are exposed. And are meant to be used in addition to proper protective equipment.

Crowded public places

In order to reduce any potential viral load when you’re in public places, breathe through your nose, slowly and from your upper chest- slow, shallow breathing. Nasal breathing allows less volume of air into your lungs and less potential viral load. This decreased volume helps your immune system knock out any invaders and prevent it from being overwhelmed.

Nasal breathing is better than mouth breathing as it also offers some resistance and more filtering of inhaled air. You will take in more air particles with mouth breathing.

Coughed or sneezed on

If someone coughs or sneezes near you, stop breathing, hold your breath, and walk away. Avoid taking any of it into your lungs.

Feel symptoms coming on

As athletes, we’re often more aware of feeling “off” early in an illness. Early detection is key to helping your immune system do a better job and not get overwhelmed. But there are other ways to help you catch the early warning signs of disease, especially one that may adversely affect your lungs.

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Monitoring HRV daily can help you understand when your body is under stress and when an illness may be coming on. For more on HRV, go to my blog all about this metric.

SPO2 or Peripheral capillary oxygen saturation You can monitor your blood oxygen saturation using a fingertip pulse oximeter. These are very easy to use, easy to find, and inexpensive. A drop from the normal healthy athlete range of 94-99% can be an indication of illness. An SPO2 level between 90-94% can be a sign of respiratory infection. This drop-in oxygen saturation can be measured before you feel any symptoms.