Lung swelling and long covid

I wrote this in 2017, about influenza. However, I think covid-19 can do the same thing. Part of long covid is letting the lungs really heal, which means infuriating amounts of rest and learning to watch your own pulse. Watching the pulse is easier then messing around with a pulse oximeter. The very basics of pulse is that normal beats per minute is 60 to 100. If your pulse is 70 in bed and 120 after you do the dishes, you need to go back to bed or the couch and REST.

From 2017: Influenza is different from a cold virus and different from bacterial pneumonia, because it can cause lung tissue swelling.

Think of the lungs as having a certain amount of air space. Now, think of the walls between the air spaces getting swollen and inflamed: the air space can be cut in half. What is the result?

When the air space is cut down, in half or more, the heart has to work harder. The person may be ok when they are sitting at rest, but when they get up to walk, they cannot take a deeper breath. Their heart rate will rise to make up the difference, to try to get enough oxygen from the decreased lung space to give to the active muscles.

For example, I saw a person last week who had been sick for 5 days. No fever. Her heart rate at rest was 111. Normal is 60 to 100. Her oxygen level was fine at rest. Her oxygen level would start dropping as soon as she stood up. She had also dropped 9 pounds since I had seen her last and she couldn’t afford that. I sent her to the emergency room and she was admitted, with influenza A.

I have seen more people since and taken two off work. Why? Their heart rate, the number of beats in one minute, was under 100 and their oxygen level was fine. But when I had them walk up and down a short hall three times, their heart rates jumped: to 110, 120. Tachycardia. I put them off from work, to return in a week. If they rest, the lung swelling will have a chance to go down. If they return to work and activity, it’s like running a marathon all day, heart rate of 120. The lungs won’t heal and they are liable to get a bacterial infection or another viral infection and be hospitalized or die.

I had influenza in the early 2000s. My resting heart rate went from the 60s to 100. When I returned to clinic after a week, I felt like I was dying. I put the pulse ox on my finger. My heart rate standing was 130! I had seen my physician in the hospital that morning and he’d gotten a prescription pad and wrote: GO TO BED! He said I was too sick to work and he was right. I went home. It took two months for the swelling to go down and I worried for a while that it never would. I dropped 10 pounds the first week I was sick and it stayed down for six months.

Since the problem in influenza is tissue swelling, albuterol doesn’t work. Albuterol relaxes bronchospasm, lung muscle tightness. Cough medicine doesn’t work very well either: there is not fluid to cough up. The lungs are like road rash, bruised, swollen, air spaces smaller. Steroids and prednisone don’t work. Antiviral flu medicine helps if you get it within the first 72 hours!

You can check your pulse at home. Count the number of beats in one minute. That is your heart rate. Then get up and walk until you are a little short of breath (or a lot) or your heart is going fast. Then count the rate again. If your heart rate is jumping 20-30 beats faster per minute or if it’s over 100, you need to rest until it is better. Hopefully it will only be a week, and not two months like me!


Feel free to take this to your doctor. I was not taught this: I learned it on the job.

I took the photograph, a stealthie, in June 2021, when I was still on oxygen continuously.

Covid-19: Approach to Long Haul

Covid-19: Approach to Long Haul

This is written primarily for physicians, but is for anyone to read. This is a working theory.

I am very interested in Long Haul because I was diagnosed with PANS by an older psychiatrist who worked exclusively with physicians in 2012. That was during my third flare. The evidence is mounting that Long Haul is an autoimmune disorder like PANS. I am sharing my approach to Long Haul based on both my clinic and personal experience.

Step 1. Validate the patient. Patients are terrified, understandably, to have something “like” chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, or are worrying that they are “crazy”. Evidence is appearing that Long Haul, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia are all complex autoimmune disorders with multiple antibodies. We do not yet have vast antibody tests. So the first step is to say that we believe patients and also that we can help. This is a very new and evolving field. I tell patients that it will change fast over the next few years. What I tell them today may change within a year as we get new information. If this makes them anxious, remind them of the Women’s Health Initiative and how that changed hormone therapy, and that cancer treatments keep improving.

Step 2. Lower stress and antibody levels. When we are high stress, cortisol and adrenaline go up and impair the immune system. The immune system is fired up and looking for something to do. Bacteria like strep A have evolved with us and have surface proteins that “look like us”. Our bodies make antibodies to the Strep A or Covid-19 and sometimes those antibodies attack us too, because our own proteins look the same. One way of lowering the antibody level is sweating. Hot bath or shower, sauna, hot tub, exercise. Support these and explain. A second way to lower the antibody level is to quiet the sympathetic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic is the quiet, relaxed and laughing one. Where does the patient feel safe, relaxed, quiet? After my father died, leaving a complicated and messy estate with an out of date will, I did a Sudoku daily for a year. I realized that the Sudoku relaxed me because I could not solve the estate quickly, but I could nearly always solve the Sudoku. Stupid cat videos, rocking chairs, knitting, gentle walk in the neighborhood if it feels safe, a walk in a mall (without one’s purse if overspending is an issue) — how does this particular person relax? Teach the slow breathing: in for a slow count of five and out for a slow count of five. Or square breathing: in for five, hold five, out five, in five. Twenty minutes of slow breathing supposedly moves almost everyone from sympathetic to parasympathetic. It may take practice and feel unfamiliar: I have had a veteran say that it felt very very weird to relax and he was not used to it. He kept at it.

Step 3. Symptom picture. At present I am basing this on my own experience with PANS. This is my working theory. Antibodies can block receptors or “turn the key” and activate receptors. Buprenorphine does BOTH (though it is not an antibody): at lower levels it turns the key and at higher levels it blocks. I would ask specifically about five fields. You many well be able to come up with more.

a. Brain function. In my PANS, I have antibodies to dopamine that turn dopamine on very high. Other physicians assume that I am manic. I am not quite manic, but it certainly feels awful. I feel like I have been shot out of a cannon when I wake up, with the morning cortisol rise. For me, the caffeine in coffee calms me, and my assumption is that it displaces the anti-dopamine antibodies. Tea does not work. I quit coffee for seven years until the latest flare. Albuterol doesn’t work. Terbutaline does work. I don’t know about theophylline or adderall, I have not tried them. If someone has “brain fog”, I assume that they have blocker antibodies OR be sure to ask if they were different in the first 4-6 months of the illness. For me, the antibodies rise for about 2-3 months and then take 2-3 months to drop. I have a lot of fatigue when they finally leave and this time I could tell the day that the last antibodies “fell off” or dropped to my “normal” level.
For blocked people, does caffeine help? How about albuterol? Adderall, theophylline, SSRIs. Every person will have different antibodies. Treatment needs to be tailored.

b. Muscle function. My anti-tubulin antibody (I have PANS, remember?) shuts down my “fast twitch” but not my “slow twitch” muscles. Tubulin is what makes the lung cilia function, so presumably mine are paralyzed during a flare and that is why I get pneumonia. I am tachycardic, resting heart rate 100 and walking slowly or talking heart rate 135, so I get very short of breath. Both the lung dysfunction and antibodies that upregulate my dopamine receptors make me tachycardic. I think that the people who can barely get out of bed with chronic fatigue have both fast and slow twitch muscles blocked. They need validation and lower stress. With support, perhaps the antibody level can be lowered enough that they can function again. I also found that my muscles hurt when my blood sugar was up and that if I keep it low, I have minimal muscle pain. I do not know if this is true for other people.

c. Gut function. In PANS, there appears to be an antibody to lysoganglioside. I don’t understand it but when I am sick, I cut carbohydrates way back or I am horribly ill. I tolerate lactose but not fructose, sucrose or gluten. One year after getting my last flare, I can eat everything except gluten. With this round I figured out that rising blood sugar when I am sick makes me acidic. This in turn worsens lung function more, as my body automatically slows my breathing to balance the acidity. I found that taking bicarb before a meal helped tremendously. In the worst/highest antibody part of the flare, I eat fats, because anything else makes me ill. SO: what can the patient eat or not eat and support them. Food intolerances are on the rise. Ask if there are foods that they cannot eat and support them not eating them. They can go to a very restricted diet that works for them and wait three weeks. After three weeks, food antibody levels are supposed to drop. They can start adding foods back in, one every three days. I do not know if this will work in a bad flare, the antibodies may be too high.

d. Lungs: do a resting heart rate and oxygen saturation. Do a walking heart rate and sat. Then do a LOADED heart rate and sat, with the person carrying the equivalent of two bags of groceries or their toddler. If they are young, they may hold their sats, but if their heart rate jumps to 135, that is like running a continuous marathon. Try oxygen and see if the heart rate comes down. Sleep apnea testing is also highly recommended. If they are tachycardic with daily activities, of course they have fatigue! Rest. Patients can learn to check a pulse or have a pulse ox, but fingers and second hand are cheap.

d. Other. I am reading that the main complaints in Long Haul are fatigue, brain issues, tachycardia and shortness of breath. What else really bothers the person? Sound sensitivity, loss of the sense of smell. The first step in helping with this is to listen and validate.

Covid-19: long haul II

A few days ago my primary care doctor texts that she wonders if I have the autoimmune form of fibromyalgia.

Red alert. I have not heard about this.

I did a search last night and find this: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/07/210701120703.htm.

Now, if you have been paying attention, you know that I was diagnosed with PANDAS in 2012, though Isuspect that it is really PANS. Both are autoimmune disorders. I also think that long haul covid is the same thing or something similar.

Meanwhile, they are now saying Covid-19 Long Haul may ALSO be an autoimmune disorder. Multiple sites below.

There is a paper in Nature that I don’t have access to, annoyingly enough. The fibromyalgia story in the above story is that they have spun antibodies down from human serum of affected and unaffected people and then injected them into mice. The mice get fibromyalgia symptoms from the affected antibodies but not from the unaffected ones. The symptoms in the mice go away when the antibodies fade out, in a few weeks. Aha.

The long haul story says that death from Covid-19 may be an autoimmune response, the antibodies going really nuts and making people bleed or their lungs close down. That is, swell shut. They have been drawing blood to study at different stages of Covid-19 and also checking autopsy patients. Usually autoimmune diseases are more prevalent in women then men but Covid-19 seems to be worse in men. This: “The mechanisms behind the production of such autoantibodies aren’t yet clear. Widespread and long-term inflammation during severe COVID-19 may cause the immune system to produce antibodies to pieces of the virus it wouldn’t normally recognize. Some of those pieces might resemble human proteins enough to trigger the production of autoantibodies.

Excessive inflammation could also boost production of autoantibodies that had previously only existed in the body at very low levels. Vaccination against COVID-19 is much less inflammatory than infection with the virus. In a separate study that looked at COVID vaccination, none of the healthy volunteers developed autoantibodies.” (2)(*)

Here is another fibromyalgia paper: https://www.verywellhealth.com/autoimmunity-neuroinflammation-in-fibromyalgia-5197944. That paper lists the autoantibodies that they are finding in fibromyalgia including gangliosides. The fourth antibody in PANDAS/PANS is anti-lysoganglioside. Aha! So this is sparking a serious revolution in medicine: it is looking like many of the mysterious and difficult to describe and quantify diseases may be autoantibody disorders. The anti-ganglioside antibodies were found in 71% of fibromyalgia patients. There are seven antibodies listed, including one to serotonin. In PANS, they are blaming two anti-dopamine antibodies. None of the fibromyalgia patients had ALL seven, but all of them had some of them. A different pattern in every patient, because we all make different antibodies. Fascinating.

One more: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28339361/. People with lupus are more likely to have fibromyalgia and visa versa. “Increasing evidence indicates that N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) play a major role in the induction and maintenance of central sensitisation with chronic pain. In this study, we evaluated the role of anti-NMDAR antibodies in the development of FM in patients with SLE.” Lupus and fibromyalgia share an autoantibody. Holy cats. NMDA is ALSO a neurotransmitter. Makes me wonder quite a bit about “psychiatric” disorders.

Remember that we make up all the words. So the autoimmune diseases are usually found by testing for a few antibodies. In the most common autoimmune disorder, hypothyroidism, we usually check the TSH and T4 level, so patient hormone levels rather than antibody levels. Over the last 30 years, we are able to test for more antibodies. Systemic lupus erythematosis, celiac, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. When I was in medical school in 1989, the rheumatology book was an inch and a half thick and there were loads of different patterns of disease. I am sure it is twice as thick now. Our initial test for autoimmune disease is for inflammation: an antinuclear antibody and an erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Some people have rheumatoid arthritis but their RF is negative: they have “sero-negative” rheumatiod arthritis, which is more likely “a different autoantibody that we have not tracked down” rheumatoid arthritis. In chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, the antinuclear antibody and erythrocyte sedimentation rate are usually normal. I suspect both disorders of being “post” inflammation.

My prediction is a serious medical revolution, where we start regularly testing for autoantibodies. Whether that will be something like a pregnancy test but with hundreds of autoantibodies tested for, or whether there are some key indicator ones that we can find, is not clear. At any rate, trauma, stress and infection all increase the likelihood of getting one of these disorders and we have to figure out how to lower the load of all three.

Do you think people are instinctively quitting their jobs?

I had a phone visit with my pulmonologist yesterday. She was running about 35 minutes late, I sat on Zoom until she showed up. She looks exhausted. “We have less doctors and more patients.” she says. “I was on call for the critical care unit last week and I am on call Monday and Tuesday.” “Please take care of yourself,” I say, “We really need you.” She is smiling the whole time. She is worried about me dropping weight and I am worried about her.

Prayers and blessings all around.


1. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/newsroom/covid-19-can-trigger-self-attacking-antibodies/
2. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/autoimmune-response-found-many-covid-19
1. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/newsroom/covid-19-can-trigger-self-attacking-antibodies/
2. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/autoimmune-response-found-many-covid-19
3. https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/591528-long-covid-study-author-explains-four-factors-that-can-predict-how-you-get
4. https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/studies-identify-risk-factors-for-long-covid-69648
5. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-10436473/Is-people-sicker-Covid-19.html
*If that paragraph does not make people get the vaccine, they are living completely in a mad dream world, IMHO.
6. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/misdirected-antibodies-linked-severe-covid-19

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: flickering. As in flickering hope.

Covid-19: omicron

So far, it looks like the Omicron variant is more infectious and less virulent.

“This is good, right? you say, “We can all just get it, then we are immune, move on with our lives.”

There are three, no, four major problems that I can think of right off the bat.

1. Long Haul Covid. We do not know if Omicron will cause Long Haul Covid. This is a big deal. The numbers right now are suggesting that one third of the people who get Covid-19, even a mild case, still have problems at six months out and twelve months out. Are you willing to take a one in three chance? Not me! We do not know how to fix Long Haul Covid-19, we don’t know what it is (even though I have suspicions) and some people can’t even get out of bed. This is bad.

2. Omicron will be happily playing with Delta and trading genes and making NEW babies. As one math joker says, “hey, don’t screw up Pi for us.” We could get a version with the infectious capacity of Omicron and the virulence of Delta. This is also bad.

3. We don’t know what it will do to small children and babies and the very old and the immunosurpressed and Covid-19 turns out to infect fat cells which is theoretically why overweight and obese people in their thirties are dying with it. The doc group I am in on Facebutt is reporting a 5% survival with long term ECMO (heart lung bypass machine) and that people may need to be on the machine for months. Like, eight months. This requires two nurses at all times, not to mention a specialist. A few places report 30% survival, but they also say that they say NO a lot and refuse people they think will not survive. Might as well pick the ones that might survive, right?

4. We don’t know if the drugs we have right now work against it. Some may, some may not. Starting over.

So, I still say get immunized if you haven’t and get boosted if you have. Get your influenza shot too. The masks are helping with influenza this year too, but if flu really got a hold, flu in post-covid would be a very very effective killer. And if you are 65* you should get your prevnar vaccine, for pneumococcal pneumonia. It used to be called “the old man’s friend” because it’s such an effective killer of people 65 and up. The new shingles vaccine, yeah, get that too. Do you feel like a pincushion yet?

No word yet from my immunologist. If I am not making antibodies to Covid-19, do I cancel my Christmas trip? Dunno. Will wait to hear.

Happy whatever you celebrate.


1. https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/02/world/south-africa-omicron-origins-covid-cmd-intl/index.html?utm_source=fbCNN&utm_medium=social&utm_content=2021-12-02T13%3A31%3A02&utm_term=link&fbclid=IwAR0NySrFr-I_ieYmVMQawstw6-oEGlxf32MgcbKyLz8RvpdHHGfzZ678XTY

2. https://robinschoenthaler.medium.com/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-omicron-that-we-dont-know-yet-d85bdd64d76e

3. https://longbeach.gov/press-releases/omicron-variant-of-covid-19-virus-found-in-long-beach/. Yep, in my state.

4. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/omicron-variant.html

* Or are younger and have heart disease, lung disease or anything really complicated, like cancer, lupus, autoimmune stuff, etc, etc.

mask up

Care for your family and friends and community. Mask up and do the best you can not to get nor give Covid-19 this season. The winter is dark but the sun will start returning to us soon. Like the seeds in the ground and the trees with no leaves, we can get through this dark season caring for each other.

Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric syndrome

Yes, well, PANS rather than PANDAS. PANDAS is just a cooler acronym. Who wants a syndrome named after a kitchen implement? Not me. And probably tuberculosis (my mom’s) was the initial insult and then I was one of those kids who gets Strep A at least yearly. My daughter too, but my son only had Strep A once.

This is actually Pseudoautoimmune. That is, the antibodies that show up to Strep A attack parts of ourselves. It buggers up the acronym so they are not calling in PPANS. Yet. And eventually they will have to drop the Pediatric, so then it’s back to PANS. Oh, well, I can live with a stupid acronym.

My current theory is that the four antibodies that they’ve found so far are an interesting back up crisis system. Either stress or infection can set them off. Once the antibody levels are high, a person gets

1. Either brain fog or some variation of ADHD/OCD/Manic-depressive/TICS/Oppositional Defiance/etc. The brain fog can be labeled depression or memory loss, partly depending on the age of the person.

2. Muscle weirdness: either super strong/super endurance or slow twitch/fast twitch/both muscle dysfunction. With slow and fast twitch muscle dysfunction, theoretically that would be a source of at least some of the chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue pretty much happens over night and is triggered by one in ten severe infections and/or stress. Though possibly more with Covid-19. The latest estimates are 30% of everyone infected has some form of Long Covid.

3. Anti lysoganglioside. I am still studying lysogangliosides. They lyse ganglions. In theory if this blocks the lysogangliosides, there could be a higher risk of cancer. If the ganglions are lysed more, well, more brain dysfunction and memory loss. I also noticed that I had tremendous muscle pain if I ate the wrong things. This could then be the mechanism for some of the fibromyalgia people.

How to fight this?

It’s not going to be popular in medicine, particularly allopathic, because the main treatments that I can think of are NOT DRUGS.

1. Look for infection and treat it. Penicillin is cheap. High dose if the person doesn’t respond. I don’t look septic when I am near septic: no elevated white blood cell count and no fever. It’s the urine output multiplied by 5, that is, 10 liters instead of 2 liters in 24 hours, that is the clue. This time I did not get to that point and it was milder. Though I need oxygen.

2. Quiet the immune system. Teach the slow breathing that we are using for chronic pain and our anxious people and PTSD veterans. Going from the ramped up hyper crazy sympathetic nervous system state to the quiet relaxed parasympathetic nervous system is a skill that I think anyone can learn. The immune system calms down in the parasympathetic state and antibody levels will drop. The naturopaths want to give tons of pills (that they sell from their clinic or get a kick back from the on line company) for “immune dysfunction” but most of it is crap. Yes, crap. So the naturopaths won’t like this idea either.

3. For the anti lysoganglioside, I’ve treated this by changing my diet. When my antibodies are high, I have to keep my blood sugar as low as possible which means I go keto. As the antibodies come down, I can add foods back in. I am eating everything now except gluten. The gluten is annoying but Things Could Be Worse. Lots worse. This time I figured out that gluten, fructose and sucrose were culprits but not lactose and as I get better rice, potatoes and corn are fine. I dislike soy and always have, except for soy sauce and tamari. Tofu tastes like squishy cardboard to me, yuk. The gluten thing may get better, but since it appears that the baseline of the antibodies rises with each infection/attack, it might not. I will ask for celiac testing in January if I haven’t improved by now. I am not a “bad” celiac who gets terrible symptoms if there is a whiff of gluten. A little doesn’t bother me. French toast two weeks ago brought back the diverticular symptoms and kept hurting for a week. This did motivate me to hold off on gluten. Especially in the holidays and traveling. Again, everyone makes different antibodies, so the food patterns could be highly variable in different people. How very very interesting.

4. Treat the psychiatric stuff. If antibiotics and slow breathing and other parasympathetic exercises don’t help the person, then add the psychiatric drugs. But I’d try the above three first, unless the person is suicidal or threatening others. I am a drug minimalist. Eat food, exercise, have friends, work some, play lots and avoid pills. Including vitamins and supplements.

And that’s the basic plan for treating PANS. The symptoms of Long Haul Covid-19 bear a strong resemblance to my four pneumonias: brain fog or psychiatric problems, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle pain. Therefore I would try similar treatments which may help some people with Long Haul Covid-19, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

We will see if I make any headway at all.

___________________________________________

For more about PANS/PANDAS: https://home.liebertpub.com/news/revised-treatment-guidelines-released-for-pediatric-acute-onset-neuropsychiatric-syndrome-pans-pandas/2223