Shortness of breath or breathlessness can occur when you have difficulty taking in enough air to breathe.
It can range from mild to severe and in medical terms is known as Dyspnea.
Although it is relatively common, it can be very distressful and uncomfortable.
Most often, it is a common symptom of heath problems often heart or lung disease.
However, you can also experience temporary dyspnea after an intense workout.
Extreme temperatures, obesity and even walking on high altitudes can cause shortness of breath.
But if it occurs without any of the above or you do not suffer from any medical condition, then you should seek medical attention.
Learn more about causes, symptoms, triggers, and treatment of shortness of breath in this guide.
Causes of Shortness of Breath
In some cases, individuals may experience shortness of breath suddenly for a short period of time.
Others may experience it regularly, and if it does, then it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
If shortness of breath occurs suddenly, it means that you need emergency treatment.
The common causes of shortness of breath are overweight or obesity.
Smoking, allergies or pollutants in the air, extreme temperatures, high-intensity workouts, and anxiety can also cause it.
Underlying Medical Conditions causing Shortness of Breath
If you experience shortness of breath on regular basis, then it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
It can be due to a heart or lung disease.
Your heart and lungs help to carry oxygen around the body and get rid of carbon dioxide.
Because of this process, certain conditions affect how they function and affect your breathing.
Underlying medical conditions are asthma, anemia, and lung cancer.
Moreover, abnormal heart function, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and certain lung conditions like TB, or pleurisy can be the cause of it.
However, there are some acute, sudden causes of shortness of breath that need immediate medical attention.
These are severe allergic reactions. heart attack, pneumonia, or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Moreover, it can also be due to choking, an enlarged heart, a blood clot in the lungs, or a foreign object in the lungs, according to Healthline media.
Symptoms of Shortness of breath
One of the major signs and symptoms of shortness of breath is difficulty in breathing.
It may last for a minute or two after stressing workout.
Moreover, it could also be due to an underlying medical condition.
You may also have sensations of not getting enough oxygen or air into your lungs, however, in serious conditions, you may feel suffocating.
In some cases, however, bouts of dyspnea may bring on a feeling of tightness of the chest as well.
Dyspnea that is due to high intensity or strenuous exercise is often common and understandable.
However, you should seek medical attention if you notice the following signs and symptoms:
- You have breathlessness after an activity that you would handle without a problem
- may experience it without any explanation
- you experience dyspnea sooner than you used to be after a physical activity
Identifying and Reducing Triggers of Dyspnea
Depending on the causes of dyspnea, there are certain lifestyle changes you can make to avoid triggers and ease the symptoms.
These are losing weight, exercising, and quit smoking.
Moreover, you should also avoid exercising in hot weather, avoid allergens or pollutants and stick to treatment plans for the underlying condition.
Treatment options include treating underlying conditions causing it.
It means making amends from simple lifestyle changes to treating underlying medical conditions.
Moreover, if you suffer from a medical condition and are unaware of it, you should seek medical attention.
These options are:
- diet and exercise
- cardiac rehabilitation
- pulmonary rehabilitation
- covid-19 vaccination
Let’s discuss these as follows:
Diet and Exercise
If you are obese or overweight or a poor fitness level is a common cause of dyspnea.
Thus, eating healthy, and exercising frequently may be a long-term remedy, however, it is an effective one.
But, if you have a medical condition or a medical emergency, then you should talk to your doctor about how to begin a safe exercise regime.
Many heart-related diseases need a cardiologist to treat them.
In case, you suffer from heart failure, then your heart is too weak to pump through oxygenated blood to meet your body’s oxygen requirements.
One of the different symptoms of dyspnea is heart failure.
Thus, cardia rehabilitation can help manage heart failure and other conditions.
However, in serious cases, you may need an artificial pump to take over when you have a weak heart.
COPD and other pulmonary problems need the care of a pulmonologist.
In such a case, you may need supplemental oxygen to help you from feeling out of breath.
Another helpful option is pulmonary rehabilitation.
This contains certain exercise under the supervision of therapists that helps to overcome lung diseases.
Home Remedies for Common Causes of Dyspnea
When you understand the warning signs and reasons for what is causing dyspnea, then you can ease it with the help of certain home remedies.
However, it is important to understand that for medical conditions, you should get medical treatment.
The following exercises can help ease the breathlessness at home:
- Deep breathing
- Pursed lip breathing
- Finding a comfortable position
- Drinking coffee
Let’s discuss these as follows:
To help manage breathlessness, breathing deeply can help ease the symptoms.
- lie down and your hands on the abdomen
- breath in through the nose, expanding the abdomen and letting your lungs fill in the air
- hold your breath for some seconds
- breath out slowly, thus emptying your lungs
You can do this exercise several times a day or as often as you experience shortness of breath.
You can also try diaphragmatic breathing.
However, if you do not perform it properly, it can cause you more harm than benefit.
Research suggests that if you perform breathing exercises not properly, then they can cause severe chronic respiratory conditions.
Moreover, they can lead to hyperinflation, which prevents efficient airflow in the body.
Other risks include reduction in strength of diaphragm and increase in shortness of breath.
Pursed Lip Breathing
This one is another breathing exercise that can help relieve dyspnea.
It helps to reduce breathlessness by slowing the pace of your breathing.
This is particularly useful if you suffer from anxiety.
To try pursed-lip breathing at home, you can:
- Sit upright in a chair with relaxed shoulders.
- Press your lips together, thus, keeping a small gap between them.
- Inhale through your nose for a couple of seconds.
- Gently exhale through the pursed lips for a count of four.
- Repeat this a few times.
You can repeat this exercise throughout the day or when your feel short of breath.
Finding a Comfortable Position
Finding a comfortable position to stand or lie can help you relax and catch your breath.
If it is due to anxiety or overexertion, then this remedy is very beneficial for you.
The following positions can help relieve airways and improve your breathing:
- leaning against a wall
- sitting forward in a chair
- standing with hands on the table
- lying down with your head and knees supported by pillows
Drinking black coffee can help ease the feeling of shortness of breath.
This is because the caffeine helps to reduce tightness in your airway.
According to a review from 2010, suggest that that caffeine affects and improves the way your airways functions especially in people with asthma.
However, bear in mind, that drinking too much coffee can increase your heart rate, thus you should watch your caffeine intake.
Other remedies include inhaling steam, eating fresh ginger, and using a fan.
Inhaling steam can help keep the nasal passage clean. You can try it at home by filling a bowl of hot water and adding a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil.
Position yourself on the bowl and place a towel on your head. Inhale the steam.
Eating fresh ginger can help reduce shortness of breath due to a respiratory infection.
According to a study, ginger is effective in fighting a respiratory syncytial virus that is a cause of common respiratory infections.
Another study suggests that using a handheld fan can help reduce the feeling of breathlessness.
When to See a Doctor
If you experience shortness of breath regularly, then you will need a proper diagnosis from a doctor.
However, you already have a diagnosis, then you can try some of some remedies.
While it can be very distressing for some people, if it occurs for the first time, then you should seek medical attention or talk to your doctor immediately.
In some cases, shortness of breath can be a cause of underlying medical conditions and you should consult your doctor.
If you want to prevent episodes of dyspnea, then you should try to avoid and manage its causes.
The most common risk factor is smoking.
Try quitting or avoid smoking. You should also take to a smoking cessation program or specialist that will help you improve your heart and lungs.
Air pollution and airborne chemicals can lead to breathing issues.
Thus if you are working in such an environment, then consider using a mask to filter out lung irritants.
Moreover, a healthy weight can also help avoid other health problems.
Lose weight and talk to your doctor or nutritionist to help you set meal plans and change your lifestyle.
Shortness of breath can be a sign and symptom of a certain condition or it could be due to a high-intensity workout.
However, certain conditions like COPD and heart failure can be life-long. Thus, getting treatment for underlying medical conditions and avoiding triggers can help ease the symptoms.
You should make sure to follow the treatment plan by your doctor, regular checkups and certain lifestyle changes can help you breathe easier for a longer period of time.