How to Manage Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath is a very common problem that most of us complain about from time to time. Medically known as dyspnea, shortness of breath means you are having difficulty breathing and feeling suffocated.
Breathlessness can be mild, moderate or severe. In some cases, people also experience anxiety or stress that makes the condition worse.
It is normal to experience some shortness of breath when you exceed your usual activity level or climb to high altitudes where there is less oxygen in the air. In such cases, breathing returns to normal after a rest period.
Shortness of breath, however, can also be due to a number of health issues. It can be caused byanemia, respiratory infection or disease, chronic bronchitis, heart disease, and allergies. It is a very common symptom in people suffering from lung cancer.
Quit Smoking :-
- If you’re a smoker, the most important lifestyle change that you can make is to quit smoking. Studies suggest that people who smoke have a 2 to 3 times higher risk of developing respiratory symptoms compared to never-smokers.
- What’s more, lung function decline characteristic of COPD often normalizes when you quit smoking, declining at the same rate as anyone else of the same age, sex, height and weight.
Get More Exercise :-
- Physical activity in COPD is like a double-edged sword; on one hand, COPD patients need exercise to prevent the steady decline in functional capacity, cardiovascular function and skeletal muscle mass caused by persistent inactivity.
- On the other hand, the shortness of breath experienced by people with COPD, especially during exercise, leads to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.
- Moderate daily exercise has been found to decrease the sensation of breathlessness in people with COPD and produce the greatest improvements in functional capacity and overall health.
- At the very least, 15 minutes of moderate physical activity, three days a week is the minimum required to ensure a health benefit from any exercise program.
Follow Your Treatment Plan :-
- Medications like inhaled bronchodilators and corticosteroids help decrease breathlessness in COPD and are important part of any COPD treatment plan.
- Furosemide (Lasix) helps lessen breathlessness, if its underlying cause is heart failure, liver or kidney disease.
- Antibiotics are effective in treating respiratory infections like pneumonia, which contribute greatly to shortness of breath.
- Oxygen therapy can also help relieve breathlessness in patients who have low blood oxygen levels.
- Whatever your treatment plan, the most important part is following it if it’s working well and talking to your health care provider if it’s not.
Diaphragmatic Breathing :-
Also called abdominal breathing or deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing can help manage your breathlessness. This technique is particularly helpful when you have shortness of breath due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Lie down on your back, put your hands on your abdomen and relax your muscles.
- Breathe in deeply through your nose, expanding your abdomen and then filling your lungs with air.
- Hold your breath for a couple of seconds.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth and empty your lungs completely.
- Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Do this breathing exercise 2 or 3 times a day.
Pursed-lip Breathing :-
Another common breathing technique that can help ease shortness of breath is pursed-lip breathing. It can quickly slow your pace of breathing, helping you restore your normal breathing. It also helps relieve stress and anxiety.
- Sit comfortably and relax your neck and shoulder muscles.
- Keep your lips pressed together tightly, except the center.
- Inhale for a couple of seconds through your nose.
- Exhale slowly and gently through your pursed lips while counting to 4.
- Continue to inhale and exhale for another 10 minutes.
Try this breathing technique any time you begin to feel short of breath. Within minutes, you will start feeling much better.
Drink Black Coffee :-
- A cup of black coffee can also help cure shortness of breath.
- The caffeine in coffee helps reduce respiratory muscle fatigue and improves airway function modestly.
- In addition, it may reduce asthma symptoms.
- Drink 1 to 2 cups of strong, black coffee to relieve shortness of breath and restore your normal breathing.
- Do not drink coffee in excess as it may raise your heart rate and blood pressure.
Cut Back on Foods That Cause Gas and Bloating :-
- The old saying “you are what you eat” certainly rings true in COPD.
- Certain foods, like cruciferous vegetables, beans and carbonated beverages are infamous for causing gas and bloating.
- Bloating increases pressure on the diaphragm which can worsen shortness of breath.
- If you’re particularly prone to gas and bloating, consider eliminating, or at least limiting, foods that may have a gassy effect on you.
Practice Pursed-Lip Breathing :-
- Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to breathing exercises for lung disease.
- Pursed-lip breathing is especially effective during sudden periods of shortness of breath.
- To master pursed lip breathing, inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through pursed lips.
- Practicing this method 3 to 4 times a day will allow you to use it more effectively when sudden periods of breathlessness arise.
Steer Clear of Airway Irritants :-
- Exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution can cause and/or worsen respiratory symptoms, especially when that exposure is cumulative over a long period of time.
- Don’t smoke or allow anyone to smoke around you.
- Stay indoors when air quality is poor.
- Protect yourself from household chemicals and/or chemicals in the workplace by wearing a respiratory mask and gloves.
- Take steps to improve your indoor air quality, particularly if you spend a lot of time at home.
Take Advantage of Oxygen Therapy :-
- Supplemental oxygen has been shown to relieve breathlessness in patients with documented hypoxemia (low blood oxygen levels).
- It may also be an option for patients suffering severe breathlessness who are not hypoxemic.
- The Inogen One Portable Oxygen Concentrator allows you to take advantage of oxygen therapy anytime you need it, whether at home or on the go.