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Chest pain or difficulty breathing due to COVID? You should seek medical help

An infectious disease specialist says people, especially those with underlying health issues, shouldn’t be afraid of seeking medical attention if they're suffering with COVID
COVID hospital
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Even though Omicron COVID-19 infections are spreading across Nova Scotia at high rates, a Halifax infectious disease specialist urges people to not be afraid of seeking medical attention if they're suffering from severe illness.

“Every person is different,” Dalhousie University’s Dr. Lisa Barrett tells CityNews Halifax. “This is a virus that can make you feel pretty terrible. The terrible-ness of symptoms generally peaks after three or four days in most people.

“If you start to feel better and then you start feeling worse again, that might be a time to check in with either your primary care provider.”

If someone experiences chest pain or difficulty breathing — either new or worsening — and they can’t find a way to feel better, then Dr. Barrett said that person should also seek medical attention.

Over the past few weeks, Nova Scotia has been overwhelmed by a wave of Omicron cases. Several workplaces and industries such as public transportation and hospitals have seen staffing shortages as employees contract the virus or become designated as close contacts.

On Wednesday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said Nova Scotia's health system has been going through a serious challenge; between 500 and 700 health-care workers have been off work in recent days due to Omicron.

On Saturday, Nova Scotia reported that 58 people are currently in the hospital due to COVID-19, including 10 people who are in the ICU.

However, Dr. Lisa Barrrett wants to ensure people there are things they can do to help alleviate their illness.

She said if someone isolating at home with COVID-19 has difficulty breathing, they should lie on their belly in a prone position and breathe whenever possible.

“Breathing on your belly as much as you can when you’re in the hardest part of this virus is really important,” she said. “It helps to get air into your lungs a little easier and give your body a break.”

People can also place pillows under their shoulders while lying on their belly to make themselves more comfortable.

“If you have the time and space to be able to do that, it’s really important,” she said. “The other thing that’s important to recognize is that there are some people in the world who are more at risk of getting bad Omicron disease.”

Those are people who have underlying health issues such as a chronic lung problem, asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, kidney disease or a suppressed immune system.

“If you are in one of those groups … and you are feeling unwell and that’s getting worse, please do reach out either to your primary care physician or, if it’s completely unmanageable, go to an urgent care facility," she said.

“We do know that those are the folks for not having the easy-go of it with COVID. We want to make sure those folks don’t stay at home too long. It’s important to reach out and it’s OK to seek medical attention, you won’t be overly stressing the system.”


Chris Stoodley

About the Author: Chris Stoodley

Chris was born and raised in Halifax. After graduating from the journalism program at King's, he started as CityNews Halifax's weekend editor.
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