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  • Jaejeong & Jaeah Kim

What COVID-19 Does to your Lungs


We recently posted a pluck dissection video (which you can check out here), where we explained the anatomy and physiology of a sheep lung. Now, if you’re reading this article in 3020, hi. You may not know this, but we had a deadly pandemic called COVID-19 a century ago, that affected millions and killed hundreds of thousands.

Respiratory damage is the most common type of damage coronavirus inflicts upon an infected individual’s body– In this article, I will explain the various short-term and long-term respiratory complications brought on by COVID-19.

First, one of the most prevalent respiratory complications linked to COVID-19 is pneumonia– a condition where the lungs fill with fluid and become inflated, leading to possibly serious breathing difficulties that would require a hospital ventilator. The type of pneumonia brought on by COVID-19 is very serious, due to the fact that it occurs in both lungs, making it so that one lung can’t compensate for the other’s malfunctions. Although COVID-19 caused pneumonia does not generally cause long-term lung damage, the breathing difficulties associated with it have been observed to last months after COVID-19 has passed. In very rare cases, COVID-19 caused pneumonia have killed patients.

Another common respiratory complication brought on by COVID-19 is Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). ARDS is a form of lung failure brought on by the shortness of breath caused by the COVID-19 infected lungs being filled with fluids. Patients with ARDS are not able to breathe on their own, and require hospitalization with a ventilator. Unlike COVID-19 induced pneumonia, COVID-19 induced ARDS can (and often is) fatal, and even when it doesn’t kill, leaves permanent pulmonary scars.

A third possible respiratory complication linked to COVID-19 infections is Sepsis– a condition where the infection spreads through the bloodstream, leaving mass tissue damage in its wake. When sepsis occurs in a COVID-19 patient, the cooperation between the organs falls apart, and entire organ systems (including lung, heart, kidney) can start shutting down one after the other. Sepsis can be fatal, and even when it doesn’t kill, it leaves a COVID-19 recovered patient with permanent damages to the lungs (and other organ systems).

The final common respiratory complication brought on by COVID-19 is superinfections in the lung. A superinfection is when the body’s immune system is preoccupied with fighting one imposter (in this case COVID-19), that it leaves itself vulnerable to other infections caused by other bacteria or viruses. A superinfection in the lung can be serious, possibly fatal, depending on which bacterium/virus superinfected the patient.

Now if you are reading this in 2020, listen up. If you have a pre-existing health condition such as heart disease or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or you are highly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to your age, do yourself a favor and stay at home in order to avoid these terrifying respiratory complications. Stay safe!


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