If you have mild symptoms of COVID-19, you may be wondering what your next steps are. The CDC says that you should rest, wear a mask, stay quarantined, and stay hydrated. The CDC also says you should visit your healthcare provider promptly if your symptoms worsen and to get medical attention immediately if you have trouble breathing. Even if you have mild symptoms, you may be wondering if you need a ventilator or not. Here are some questions you might have.
What Do Ventilators Do?
Ventilators are machines that help pump oxygen into your body. Doctors typically try less invasive methods first because you have to be intubated to be on a ventilator. This means that you'd have a tube down your windpipe and would not be able to talk, eat, or drink normally. People on ventilators may get their nutrients through an IV.
How Do They Help COVID-19 Patients?
Because COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that causes inflammation in the airways and makes it difficult to breathe, ventilators can be lifesavers for patients with severe symptoms. Ventilators can be beneficial to high-risk patients, such as older populations, those with pneumonia, or those with secondary conditions like asthma or diabetes.
However, even though ventilators help, they aren't a cure to COVID-19. The goal is to get a patient breathing well enough on his or her own so that the ventilator can be disconnected. So, even though a patient is disconnected from a ventilator, he or she may still be recovering and need to stay at a hospital to be monitored.
What's the Consensus on Their Usage?
Unfortunately, because COVID-19 is still so new, doctors are still trying to figure out the best strategies with ventilator usage. For instance, one doctor at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital says that there should be a more nuanced approach to who is intubated. Some doctors even say less invasive devices, like CPAP or BiPAP (sleep apnea devices), could be used first.
However, NPR had a rebuttal argument for alternative devices. While CPAPs and BiPAPs could help people breathe easier, the unfortunate side effect is that those machines can pump the virus into the surrounding area, making caregivers and others more prone to infection.
If you aren't struggling to breathe on your own and aren't in a high-risk demographic, then you likely don't need to be on a ventilator. However, there are incidences where even low-risk individuals have gotten sick and required intervention with ventilators. In short, the situation is continually developing, so it's best to contact your doctor about your concerns so that he or she can help you monitor your symptoms and make the appropriate recommendations on an individualized level.
For more information on ventilator use for COVID-19 patients, contact a medical service.