Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea) Treatment- Causes, Symptoms

Editor: Dr. Imtiaz Uddin Ahmed, BSc

If you’re experiencing shortness of breath, even the simplest of tasks can feel like a challenge. It can be scary, and it’s definitely uncomfortable. Now the question may arise, is there any breathing difficulty treatment available?

YES; the good news is that there are numerous treatments available to help you find relief. Whether your shortness of breath is caused by an underlying medical condition, allergies, or pollution, there are plenty of effective treatments that can get you back to breathing easily.

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In this article, we’ll try to share some effective treatments for this problem. But before that, it’s important to have a clear idea on its symptoms and causes.

So, why late? Keep reading this article and gain some ideas.

What Is Shortness of Breath?

Shortness of breath is also known as Dyspnea. It is a feeling of having difficulty breathing – like you can’t take a deep breath or get enough air.

It may be a symptom of an underlying condition or condition. But it can also occur when you’re completely healthy.

This problem can range from mild to severe and may come on suddenly or gradually. It’s often accompanied by other symptoms such as coughing and chest pain, though this isn’t always the case.

It can also be caused by lifestyle and environmental factors like smoking and air pollution.

When you experience dyspnea, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor. They may recommend further testing to determine the cause and develop a treatment plan.

What are the Common Causes of Shortness of Breath

Before knowing about the treatment of dyspnea, it’s important to have an idea on the causes of it.

Shortness of breath (SOB) is defined as a feeling of difficulty or insufficient airflow when you breathe.

It can vary from mild to severe and can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as chest tightness, coughing, wheezing, feeling dizzy or lightheaded.

So, what causes SOB? There are a number of potential culprits, so let’s go over the most common ones.

  • Asthma: Bronchospasms or asthma attacks cause narrowing of the airways and make it difficult to breathe normally.
  • COPD: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term to describe several lung conditions that cause airflow obstruction. These include chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Anemia: When there are not enough red blood cells in the body to transport oxygen adequately, it can lead to a condition known as anemia.
  • Heart failure: Many heart conditions such as congestive heart failure (CHF) lead to fluid buildup in the lungs which interferes with breathing.
  • Pulmonary embolisms: These are blockages in the blood vessels of the lungs caused by clots that travel from elsewhere in the body due to various reasons, making breathing difficult.
  • Stress/Anxiety: Stressful situations or panic attacks can lead to rapid shallow breathing and a feeling of being out of breath.

In some cases, it can be caused by more serious underlying health issues like pneumonia, pneumothorax (collapsed lung) or pulmonary hypertension.

Consult your healthcare provider if you experience shortness of breath that persists or worsens over time, as it could be indicative of a much more serious problem.

Key Symptoms of Shortness of Breath

You already know that this problem can range from mild to severe. It might come suddenly or gradually.

You might feel it when you’re active or at rest, and it might become severe enough that it interferes with your daily life.

Here are some common symptoms to look out for include:

  1. Shortness of breath while doing activities you used to be able to do without feeling out of breath.
  2. An increased heart rate, even when at rest or doing light activities.
  3. Wheezing, a whistling sound caused by narrowed airways.
  4. Feeling tired or fatigued all the time.
  5. A cough that doesn’t go away, which may produce phlegm or mucus.
  6. Chest pain, pressure, or tightness, especially during inspiration (breathing in).
  7. Swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs due to excess fluid caused by heart failure (Edema).

It’s important to note that it doesn’t always have the same severity as everyone else.

Some people may have mild shortness of breath while others could experience more intense breathing problems.

But if you’re having trouble breathing, it’s best to talk with a doctor right away as it could be serious and require medical attention right away.

Dyspnea Treatment– 6 Best Tips to Follow

We already mentioned that there are various ways to treat this problem. Here we’ll try to share some of the effective home remedies for it that can surely help you.

Have Relax in a Comfortable and Supported Position

Shortness of breath can be a major issue for those with chronic conditions, especially as the body struggles to take in enough oxygen.

But don’t worry! There are treatments available to help make breathing easier.

The most important one is to relax in a comfortable and supported position. Relaxing in a recliner, or even sitting and leaning forward can help reduce the effort it takes for you to take in a full breath.

This idea is to be comfortable in whatever way works best for your body, so you can get more air into your lungs with less effort.

It may mean leaning forward and taking shallow breaths while sitting up or reclining back in an angled position while taking deep breaths.

Whatever works best for you is the most important aspect when it comes to getting enough oxygen and reducing shortness of breath.

Sitting Forward

Sitting forward is an effective way to help relieve this uncomfortable issue. While in a seated position, you should sit up straight with your arms and legs supported against the back of the chair.

Try to relax your shoulders and keep your back rounded as if you are about to lean forward. This position helps open up the chest cavity allowing for a greater air exchange, which promotes easier breathing.

You can also try exercising while sitting in this position as it helps support the chest and spine and improve posture.

It can help to improve breathing by expanding lung capacity, increasing abdominal muscle strength, and reducing fatigue when breathing.

This position prevents fatigue in the neck, shoulders, and upper back that may be caused by poor posture while resting or sleeping.

Pursed Lip Breathing

When it comes to shortness of breath treatment, one of the most effective methods is pursed lip breathing.

This type of breathing is designed to slow down your breath rate and expand your lungs, which can help ease symptoms.

Here’s how you can do pursed lip breathing:

  1. Take a deep breath and exhale through your mouth for twice as long as it took to inhale.
  2. During exhaling, pucker your lips in the same way when you make a whistle sound. You can also imagine that you’re blowing out a candle.
  3. Then take another deep inhale through your nose and repeat the step above.
  4. No matter how many breaths you take, be sure to keep your breaths even, and remember to purse your lips on every exhale.

If done correctly, this type of breathing can help reduce dyspnea within seconds or minutes.

Doing pursed lip breathing will not only increase how much air enters your lungs but can also help stimulate the production of mucus in the sinuses. It helps to clear congestion and improves airflow in the lungs.

Take Long or Deep Breath

One way you can treat your SOB is by taking long or deep breaths. Taking a deep breath is a good way to give the diaphragm a break and replace carbon dioxide in the lungs.

Long, slow breaths take twice as long to inhale as they do to exhale and can help you relax.

Here are some ways you can practice taking long or deep breaths:

  • Find a comfortable and relaxed position and close your eyes, if possible.
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose, letting your chest and lower belly expand as much as possible with the air being taken in.
  • Exhale slowly through pursed lips, allowing your stomach to flatten back out.
  • Repeat this process several times until you feel like the air is circulating properly in your body.
  • Focus on breathing deeply and slowly, not quickly or shallowly.

Taking long or deep breaths is just one of several treatments that can help relieve shortness of breath.

Besides this technique, other things that can help include resting in a comfortable supported position, sitting forward with arms supported, pursed lip breathing, stem inhalation, and using a fan to blow across the nose.

Steam Inhalation

Steam inhalation is also a great way to address this problem. It can help to relieve congestion, much like what you’d experience with a cold, and it’s also effective at clearing out your lungs.

All you need to set up steam inhalation is a pot of boiling water, some essential oils or herbs, and a towel.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Set up the pot of boiling water and add in any essential oils or herbs that you want.
  • Place the pot on an even surface, then put your head over the pot while covering your head and the pot with a towel.
  • Take slow breaths and inhale the steam for 10 minutes or more.

You can repeat this process twice daily until you find relief from your shortness of breath symptoms.

What’s more, steam inhalation can help with other conditions such as bronchitis, asthma and sinus infections.

Using a Fan to Blow Across the Nose

A fan blowing across your nose can help to relax the muscles and increase airflow, which can reduce feelings of breathlessness.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor, and your back supported.
  2. Place the fan so that it is blowing across your nose. Start on a low setting and increase the speed until you find a level that’s comfortable for you.
  3. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths for about 10 minutes at a time, several times each day. Doing this regularly can help to reduce dyspnea and improve breathing overall.

Using a fan to blow across your nose has several benefits. It helps to relax tense muscles in the chest and neck.

It also encourages deeper breathing and keeps airways clear from dust or other allergens that can make it harder to breathe.

Which Tests Are Used to Diagnose Breathing Problems?

If you’re having shortness of breath, your doctor may order a number of tests to diagnose the underlying cause. Tests that the doctor may use include:


This test measures how quickly and how much air you inhale and exhale. It can help diagnose and gage the severity of a breathing disorder.

Pulse oximetry

It measures the amount of oxygen in your blood by shining infrared light through your skin on a fingertip or earlobe.

The machine can also measure your heart rate. Low oxygen levels in the blood could be a sign of a lung or heart problem.

Arterial blood gas test

This test checks for oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other gasses in your bloodstream. A low level of oxygen in the blood could be a sign that your lungs aren’t working properly.

Chest X-ray or CT scan

An X-ray or CT scan can show more detailed images of your lungs, heart, and other organs inside your chest to help diagnose an underlying problem that’s causing dyspnea.

Other tests might include exercise testing, pulmonary function tests (PFTs), pulmonary angiogram, bronchoscopy, echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart), or an electrophysiology study.

How Do I Know My Shortness of Breath Is Serious?

It’s important to pay attention to your body and take your shortness of breath treatment seriously. If it lasts longer than a few minutes or occurs more frequently, it may be time to talk to your doctor about it.

If you have any of the following warning signs or other changes in your breathing, it could be an indication that something more serious is happening:

  • Experiencing dyspnea that doesn’t get better with rest.
  • Breathing is so laborious that you are unable to speak or carry out normal activities.
  • Experiencing a persistent cough or wheezing.
  • Vomit while trying to breathe deeply.
  • Your lips appear blue.
  • Your nails turn a bluish-gray color.
  • Developing chest pain when you take a deep breath.

If at any point you feel like your shortness of breath is really getting in the way of your normal activities, it’s important to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.

When to Visit a Doctor for Shortness of Breath

If you think you might be suffering from difficulty of breathing and you’re unsure if it’s serious, it’s important to visit a doctor.

Shortness of breath can be an early sign of an underlying medical issue, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Certain signs may warrant an immediate visit to your doctor which are:

  1. Chest pain or tightness with your breathing problem.
  2. Trouble talking, as this could indicate a severe issue with your lungs.
  3. A fever or any other signs of infection.
  4. Severe difficulty breathing even after trying home remedies for relief.
  5. Bluish color in the lips and skin caused by lack of oxygen.
  6. Anxiety or panic attacks when difficulty of breathing occurs.
  7. Fluid retention in the legs, abdomen or chest that can interfere with breathing.
  8. Uncontrollable coughing that brings up sputum (mucus) that looks bloody or dirty-colored.
  9. Fatigue and/or confusion due to lack of oxygen.

It’s especially important to speak with a doctor if your shortness of breath is new-onset and you don’t know what might be causing it.

This could happen due to an infection like coronavirus (COVID-19), allergies, air pollution, asthma attack, etc.

In any case, don’t hesitate to contact your physician for professional advice about when is the best time for you to visit a healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal for shortness of breath?

Breathing disorder can be a normal symptom of physical exertion or emotional stress, but it can also be a sign of a more serious health condition. If you experience shortness of breath that is not relieved with rest or is accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain or dizziness, it is important to seek medical attention.

Why am I feeling shortness of breath suddenly?

Difficulty of breathing can be caused by a variety of factors, including anxiety, panic attacks, asthma, and allergies. It can also be a sign of a more serious medical condition, such as a heart attack, pulmonary embolism, or a lung infection. If you are feeling breathing disorder suddenly, it is important to seek medical attention to rule out any serious underlying causes.

Can lack of sleep cause shortness of breath?

Yes, lack of sleep can cause dyspnea. Poor sleep can lead to fatigue, which can cause the muscles used for breathing to become weaker and cause difficulty breathing. It can lead to conditions such as sleep Apnea, which is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep and can cause shortness of breath.

How to improve breathing?

To improve breathing, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management. Other strategies to improve breathing include practicing deep breathing exercises, doing yoga or other forms of relaxation.

Try to avoid triggers such as smoking, air pollution, and certain allergens. Using an air filter in the home can also reduce the presence of airborne particles and improve overall air quality.

Can massage help shortness of breath?

Yes, massage can help with dyspnea. Massage can relax the muscles and improve breathing by increasing oxygen intake and helping to reduce fatigue, tension, and anxiety.

It can also help to reduce the physical symptoms of breathing disorder, such as tightness in the chest, by helping to reduce inflammation and improve circulation. Massage can also help to reduce stress, which can be a contributing factor to shortness of breath.

Final Thought

Shortness of breath or dyspnea is a serious health condition that should not be taken lightly. Learning the dyspnea treatment and strategy outlined above can help you manage your breathing and improve your situation.

However, it is always best to speak to your healthcare provider before trying any prevention and treatment strategies. Your doctor may be able to offer alternative, more effective solutions that are tailored to your specific needs.

Taking your health into your own hands is a critical step, in managing your dyspnea and ensuring you can live your best life.

Last Updated Date: 10/04/2023

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