Do you know that Shortness of Breath or Breathlessness can be due to mild to severe reasons?

Shortness of breath often occurs when you find it difficult to breathe in enough air.

The medical term for shortness of breath is Dyspnea and despite being relatively common, it can be uncomfortable and distressing to experience.

With that being said, when it is not a symptom of a serious underlying condition, you can easily manage it at home.

However, in case of severe cases, shortness of breath is often related to heart or lung disease.

If this condition comes on suddenly due to unexplained reasons and is severe, make sure to visit your doctor as soon as possible.

This could be due to a serious condition like a heart attack or a stroke.

Keep on reading to learn more about it in detail.

Symptoms of Shortness of Breath

One of the main symptoms of shortness of breath is labored breathing or difficult breathing.

It may last for 1 or 2 minutes after strenuous activity or could be a chronic symptom that persists over long periods of time, according to the National Health Service.

However, in mild cases, you may feel like you are not getting enough air into your lungs.

On the other hand, in severe cases, you may feel as though you are suffocating. Bouts of dyspnea may also be brought on chest tightness.

shortness of breath 1

Dyspnea that occurs after you perform a strenuous exercise is understandable, however, you should seek medical attention if any one of the following occurs:

  • you are short of breath sooner than you used to be after a physical activity
  • fell breathless after an activity that you could handle without a problem in the past
  • begin to experience dyspnea without explanation.

Causes of Shortness of Breath

In most cases, exercise is a trigger for short-term dyspnea.

Following a strenuous activity, you may also have trouble taking in enough oxygen to meet the demands of your body, according to studies.

In such a case, it is often natural to need a few minutes to catch your breath, however, this will improve with resting.

After that, you will begin breathing at a regular rate often within a few minutes.

Moreover, if you are at a higher elevation and not used to having less oxygen available, then you may also experience temporary dyspnea.

However, be sure to consult your doctor or a climbing expert before making an ambitious high-elevation trek.

Furthermore, dyspnea can also occur from a wide range of health conditions.

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You should always treat conditions that bring on sudden breathlessness as emergencies.

Certain conditions that may cause short-term shortness of breath are:

  • sudden heart failure
  • low blood pressure
  • pneumonia
  • pulmonary embolism or a blood clot in your lungs
  • pneumothorax or a collapsed lung
  • carbon monoxide poisoning
  • anaphylaxis or severe allergic reaction
  • stress or anxiety
  • extreme temperature
  •  pleural effusion
  •  worsening of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD

In some cases, you may experience sudden dyspnea if a piece of food or some other object blocks your airway.

Underlying Medical Conditions leads to Shortness of Breath

An injury that harms a lung or causes rapid blood loss will also make it difficult to breathe.

Moreover, you may also feel mild shortness of breath over a long period of time, rather than in the case of severe attacks.

According to the National Health Services, if this condition lasts for more than a month, your doctor may diagnose it as chronic dyspnea.

This can be a result of long-term underlying medical conditions.

Chronic COPD, interstitial lung disease or scarring of lung tissues, difficulty managing your physical conditioning, and lung cancer.

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Moreover, pulmonary hypertension, obesity, pleural effusion, and heart disease can be examples of chronic shortness of breath.

It is important to note that Asthma can either be a chronic condition or a short-term emergency.

This often depends on the nature of your condition and the availability of an inhaler during sudden attacks.

Therefore, if you have asthma, then make sure to consult your doctor on how to respond o the symptoms and what you can do to prevent breathing concerns.

Diagnosing Shortness of Breath

In most cases, your doctor will first assess your airways, breathing, and circulation to determine if you need any immediate emergency care.

If this is not the case, they will conduct a range of tests to find the causes of your shortness of breath.

These include physical evaluation, your medical history, image scans, blood tests. lung function tests, i.e. spirometry, and pulse oximeter.

Moreover, during a physical exam, your doctor will measure your pulse, rate of breathing, body mass index, and body temperature.

In case you have a high temperature, it indicates a fever is causing shortness of breath, while if you have an abnormal pulse, it may indicate an underlying heart condition.

shortness of breath diagnosis

Furthermore, a chest X-ray is often a first diagnostic step in order to determine whether you have a lung or heart complication causing shortness of breath.

Your doctor may also perform a CT scan during the diagnosis.

These scans can help detect pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, pleural effusions, tumors, and interstitial lung disease.

However, the above test results are inconclusive, your doctor may use an echocardiogram and electrocardiogram imaging to assess heart function further.

They may also want to determine your overall strength of the lungs and blood oxygen levels using lung function tests and pulse oximetry.

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Treatment Options

The treatment for shortness of breath means treating its underlying causes.

Let’s discuss it in detail.

Diet and Exercise

If you are obese and experiencing difficulty managing your fitness level that is causing shortness of breath, eating a balanced diet and frequently exercising can help to reduce the symptoms.

Moreover, according to a study, moderate weight loss, even without exercise can help to reduce the symptoms of shortness of breath, if you are obese.

If it has been a long time or if you have a medical condition that limits your activity level, then talk to your doctor about beginning a safe routine of exercise.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

In case you are suffering from COPD and other lung conditions you will need to visit a pulmonologist.

A pulmonologist is a doctor who specializes in the health of your lungs and respiratory system.

Moreover, you may need supplemental oxygen in a portable tank to keep you from feeling out of breath in case of the above disease.


According to research, pulmonary rehabilitation can be effective in improving symptoms of shortness of breath.

This program consists of supervised exercises and education about breathing techniques to help you overcome lung diseases.

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Shortness of breath is of the multiple symptoms of heart failure.

If you have heart failure, then it means that your heart is too weak to pump oxygenated blood to meet the requirements of your body.

With the help of cardiac rehabilitation, it can help you manage heart failure and other heart-related conditions. In severe cases, you may require an artificial pump to assist heart failure.

Home Remedies for Dyspnea

When you understand the causes of shortness of breath and is not a medical emergency, then you may want to try easing it at home.

Some of the exercises you can try at home for shortness of breath are as follows:

  • deep breathing
  • pursed-lip breathing
  • finding a comfortable and supported position
  • inhaling steam
  • drinking black coffee
  • eating ginger etc.

Let’s discuss some of these as follows:

Eating Fresh Ginger: Eating fresh ginger or adding some of it to hot water as a drink can help to reduce the shortness of breath that occurs due to a respiratory infection.

According to a study, ginger may be effective in fighting the respiratory syncytial virus which is a common cause of respiratory infections.

Black Coffee: Drinking black coffee can help to ease breathlessness as caffeine can reduce tightness in the muscles of your airway.

According to a study, caffeine slightly improves the way your airway functions if you have asthma.

However, it is important to note that drinking too much coffee can increase your heart rate.

home remedies

Inhaling steam: Inhaling steam can help you to clear your nasal passage which can help you to breathe easily.

Moreover, heat and moisture from steam may also break down mucus in the lungs which can also reduce breathlessness.

I order to do so, fill a bowl with hot water, add a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil and position your face over it while a towel over your head to cover it.

Take a deep breath and inhale the steam.

It is important to note that you should let the water slightly cool if you just boil it, otherwise, it can scald the skin.

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Breathing Exercises

Some breathing exercises you can try at home are pursed-lip breathing and deep breathing.

Let’s discuss them as follows:

Pursed-lip Breathing

Pursed lip breathing helps to reduce shortness of breath by slowing the pace of your breathing and is particularly useful if you have anxiety.

To try this exercise you can:

Sit upright in a chair and keep your shoulders relaxed, press your lips together, while keeping a small gap between them.

Inhale through your nose for a few seconds, gently exhale through your pursed lips for a count of 4, and repeat this breathing pattern a few times.

You can try this exercise whenever you feel short of breath and repeat it throughout the day until you feel better.

Deep Breathing

Breathing in deeply through your abdomen can help to manage breathlessness. You can try breathing at home and can:

Lie down and place your hand on the abdomen, breath in deeply through the nose, expanding the abdomen and letting up your lungs fill with air.

Hold your breath for a couple of seconds and breathe out slowly through your mouth, thus, emptying your lungs.

Moreover, you can try this exercise several times a day or as often as you experience shortness of breath.

It is best to keep breathing slowly, easily, and deeply rather than quickly. Furthermore, you can also try diaphragmatic breathing.

However, there are some risks associated with performing deep breathing exercises incorrectly.

Research suggests that when you perform these exercises incorrectly, these exercises can harmful than helpful.

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Prevention Tips

Preventing shortness of breath means avoiding or managing its possible causes and the most obvious risk of this condition is smoking.

If you smoke, consider seeking out a smoking cessation specialist o program in your community. Moreover, there are a number of products and therapies you can take to quit smoking.

It is never too late to do so.

Treating Underlying Conditions: Underlying health conditions can cause shortness of breath. Thus, sticking to the treatment plans in order to manage these can help prevent shortness of breath.

Avoid Air Pollution: Air pollution and air-borne chemicals can lead to breathing concerns.


Therefore, if you work in an environment will poor air quality, make sure to use a mask to filter out lung irritants and make sure that your workplace is well-ventilated.

Maintain a Moredate Weight: Maintaining your weight can help to avoid a lot of health concerns.

If you need help, talk to your doctor or consult a nutritionist or dietician to help to manage your meals and change your eating style to a nutritious diet.

Avoid Overexertion: Intense physical activity can cause short-term dyspnea, thus, avoid or minimize overexertion to prevent this.

When is it an Emergency?

As unexplained dyspnea can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, you should talk to your doctor about it.

Moreover, if you suddenly have symptoms you should seek immediate emergency care.

These symptoms are lightheadedness or chest pain.

However, if it worsens when lying down, it may be due to a symptom of heart failure.


In this situation, you should contact a medical professional as soon as possible.

Furthermore, if you experience persistent coughing along with shortness of breath, it may be due to a symptom of COPD or pneumonia.

Chills, fever, and coughing that produces phlegm are the symptoms of pneumonia.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be severe in older adults and lead to hospitalization and even death without treatment.

Final Thoughts

As shortness of breath is a symptom, not a condition, your outlook depends on how well you manage or avoid its causes. Certain conditions like COPD, heart failure can chronic and mean that you will have them for life.

However, improvement in the treatments can live you longer and with a greater quality of life, with these conditions. It is important to follow the instructions of your doctor regular checkups and lifestyle changes can help to breathe easily.