Health

Covid warning: Changes in your heart rate may signal COVID-19 – how to measure yours

The UK became the first country in the world to administer the Astra Zeneca/Oxford vaccine today but you’d be forgiven for missing this positive development. The country is currently facing its worst crisis since the beginning of the pandemic. Yesterday cases topped 50,000 for the sixth day in a row, eclipsing the first wave.

Amid this grim state of affairs, the government and public health authorities alike are urging the general public to pay close attention to any warning signs of the virus.

There are subtle bodily changes spurred on by COVID-19 that you can monitor at home.

According to the COVID Symptom Study app, a not-for-profit initiative that has pooled together data from over four million contributors globally, your heart rate may hold a clue.

According to researchers behind the app, COVID-19 can cause an irregular or high heart rate (over 100 beats per minute).

“Get in the habit of measuring your pulse regularly so you can recognise the normal rate and rhythm of your heart and know if yours is changing,” they advise.

How to measure your heart rate

According to the app’s health experts, you can record your heart rate and identify any worrying changes by implementing four simple steps.

These are:

  • Rest and relax for five minutes before checking your heart rate.
  • Feel your pulse using your index and middle fingers (not your thumb) – press lightly against the inner side of your wrist near the base of your thumb or on the outer side of your windpipe under your jaw.
  • Count the number of pulse beats you feel for 60 seconds, or count the beats for 30 seconds and multiply it by two – this is your heart rate in beats per minute.
  • Feel the rhythm of your pulse for 30 seconds – a regular rhythm is normal. If you’re uncertain, tap out the rhythm on a table as you feel it.

Normal resting heart rate is considered to be between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm).

As the app’s researchers note, your heart rate could be slower if you exercise a lot or take medication like beta-blockers.

“A normal heart can miss a beat occasionally,” say the researchers.

“See your doctor if your heartbeat continues to be irregular and you’ve not already been diagnosed with a heart condition,” they add.

Taking your temperature can also signal whether you have COVID-19.

You will need a digital thermometer to measure your temperature.

According to the COVID Symptom Study app researchers, some go in your mouth while others go in your ear.

“You can buy a simple mouth thermometer for £5-10 at a pharmacy,” they note.

You can record your temperature by actioning the following steps:

  • Avoid hot or cold drinks, eating or strenuous exercise for about half an hour before taking your temperature. Make sure you’ve warmed up if you’ve just come indoors from the cold
  • If you’re using a mouth thermometer, clean the tip with cold water and soap then rinse. Some thermometers have disposable tips instead
  • Put the tip gently under your tongue and wait till it beeps or flashes. If you are using an ear thermometer, put it gently in your ear canal and press the button. Remove after it beeps
  • Check the temperature on the display and note it down.

What are the main symptoms of COVID-19?

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

According to the NHS, most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms.

If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), get a test as soon as possible. Stay at home until you get the result.

You and anyone you live with should stay at home and not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.

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