I have trouble breathing, help!

I have trouble breathing, help!

There is nothing more uncomfortable than having obstructed breathing. We need air to facilitate every function in the body. If deprived of oxygen for too long, we can suffer irreparable brain damage and other nasty side effects. 

Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnoea, is a condition where it is difficult to get air into your lungs. Usually, shortness of breath is caused by a condition of the lungs or the heart.

MayoClinic explains that your heart and lungs are involved in transporting oxygen to your tissues and removing carbon dioxide, and problems with either of these processes affect your breathing.

You may experience shortness of breath over short periods of time. It may be a long term experience too. It is a COVID-19 symptom too, but shortness of breath has been associated with other illnesses like asthma, diabetes and certain cancers. 

Trouble breathing, persistent tightness in your chest, blue lips and mental confusion require emergency medical attention. If you cannot get to a hospital for any reason, there are several home treatments to help alleviate your shortness of breath. 

What causes sudden, acute shortness of breath:

  1. Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction)
  2. Carbon monoxide poisoning
  3. Excess fluid around the heart
  4. COVID-19
  5. Heart attack and failure
  6. Arrhythmia 
  7. Pneumonia 
  8. Other pulmonary infections)
  9. A collapsed lung
  10. Pulmonary embolism
  11. Sudden blood loss and many more. 

But remember, the best course of action is always to see a medical professional.

Lifestyle changes 

There are many reasons that may cause shortness of breath. Some are more serious and require immediate medical care. Other causes can be treated at home. Your lifestyle is possibly one of those causes. 

A lifestyle change can keep your shortness of breath to a minimum. Quit smoking or try to avoid tobacco smoke. Avoid exposure to pollutants, allergens and environmental toxins. Eat well, and try to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. That sounds like a lot of water, but drink a glass every hour or two till you have reached your quota.

Obesity and breathing

Obesity hypoventilation syndrome is a breathing disorder that affects people diagnosed with obesity. It results in an overload of carbon dioxide and too little oxygen in the blood. Left untreated, it can lead to serious and even life-threatening health problems.

Stay healthy by eating well and sleeping enough. Follow a treatment plan if your doctor recommends anything for asthma, COPD or bronchitis. 

iER is a user-friendly app. The graphically appealing mobile app connects a large database of South Africans to a centralised management system of emergency service providers. Alerts go out and emergency responders dispatch to an emergency situation

According to iER, pressing a single button will connect you to a call centre that will assist if you are on the side of the road. The call centre knows of your location and the nature of your emergency. iER provides the emergency with your vital information, including your blood type, medical aid, private security number and next of kin. The more information given, the more effective their assistance will be. 

Pursing the lips

If you feel as if you aren’t breathing deep enough, try pursing your lips and breathing through your mouth. Pursed lips are positioned as if you are about to whistle. This method is simple and easy to control. It helps to slow your breathing pace, making each breath deeper and more effective/satisfying. 

Pursed lip breathing releases trapped air in your lungs. It can be used at any time you feel short of breath, especially during a strenuous activity that requires you to inhale a larger amount of air. This could be bending, lifting objects or climbing stairs. 

Do the following to perform pursed-lip breathing:

  • Relax your neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Slowly breathe in through your nose. Hold for two counts and keep your mouth closed. 
  • Breathe out slowly through your pursed lips. Count to four. 

The chair and wall technique

Your best breathing happens when you are in a resting state. When you sit and rest, it relaxes your body, allowing easier breathing. 

If you have trouble breathing, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lean your chest slightly forward. Rest your elbows on your knees. You can also hold your chin with your hands. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed. 

An alternative method to catch your breath is sitting on a chair by a table. It is slightly more comfortable. Face the table and lean slightly forward. Rest your arms on the table. Your head can rest on your forearms or a pillow.

Standing aids the relaxation of your body and airways – preferably against a wall. Face away from the wall and rest your hips on the wall. Your feet must be a shoulder-width apart, and your shoulders relaxed. Rest your hands on your thighs. Lean slightly forward and dangle your arms in front of you. 

Sleeping position

Shortness of breath can happen in your sleep. It results in waking up frequently, diminishing your sleep quality and duration. 

Try to lie on your side. Place a pillow between your legs and elevate your head with pillows as well. Keep your back straight. 

Another method is to lie on your back. Elevate your head with a pillow. Bend your knees and place a pillow there too. 

Both of these ways are equally helpful in helping you breathe easier. 

Diaphragmatic breathing

This breathing style is helpful with shortness of breath. Here are a few steps to try it out:

Sit in a chair, but bend your knees and relax your shoulders, head and neck. 

Lay your hand onto your stomach and breathe in slowly through your nose. You must be able to feel your stomach moving. 

Exhale and tighten your muscles. Your stomach should fall inward. Breathe out through pursed lips. 

Emphasise your exhale more than your inhale. Exhale longer than usual before inhaling again. Repeat this method for five minutes. 


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