Breathlessness Management 

What is Breathlessness?

Breathlessness is often an unpleasant sensation of uncomfortable, quick, or difficult breathing.  It is normal to feel like this when you are carrying out activities that require being physically active, such as running for the bus, cleaning or walking quickly.  The medical term for breathlessness is dyspnoea. Getting out of breath after exercise is normal reaction.  Some people feel breathlessness even when they are not being physically active.

People can have chronic or long-term breathlessness and people can experience it most days.  This type of breathlessness can happen slowly over weeks, months or sometimes years. Some people can start feeling breathlessness very suddenly, this is called acute breathlessness.

If you are worried about your breathing or breathlessness speak to your GP, practice nurse or specialist respiratory team.

What causes breathlessness?

Breathlessness is a feeling everyone experiences.  There are lots of different causes, some of the most common ones are:

  • Lung (breathing) problems
  • Heart problems
  • Being overweight
  • Being unfit or deconditioned
  • Anxiety attacks or panic attacks
  • Smoking

How can breathlessness make you feel?

Feeling breathless can be frightening as it can also affect how you think and the feeling of being breathless can affect people differently.  You may get the following feelings:

  • Your chest may feel tight
  • Breathing may feel very tiring
  • You can feel panicky
  • You may feel quite hot or feel like your heart is racing

If your breathlessness makes you anxious or worried this can make your breathlessness feel worse, you become more aware of your breathing, making you feel very tense and breath faster.  This can sometime lead to a panic attack.

What can I do to help manage my breathlessness?

Being able to control your breathing is a very important skill to learn.  There are lots of different ways you can control your breathing, for more information please visit our breathing techniques page

Where can I find out more?

To find out more about how to manage your breathlessness speak to your GP, practice nurse or specialist respiratory team.  People quite often find being referred into a specialist respiratory physiotherapist or occupational therapist can be very helpful.

The sites below have lots of very useful information:

ASTHMA+LUNG UK- Breathlessness

Supporting Someone with BreathlessnessNHS website- Shortness of Breath