Problems breathing, which is also called breathlessness, shortness of breath, or dyspnea, is condition where you can't catch your breath. It can be caused by at a high altitude, in cold temperatures, in hot temperature, or when you do high level physical activity. These things are normal responses to the environment and it can be changed by adjusting the environment. However, it can also be due to some kind of illness, such as a lung disease, heart problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or asthmatic conditions. So what can you do to relieve this uncomfortable feeling?
Shortness of Breath Treatment Options
The treatment varies according to the cause of the problem. Mainly, you want to make sure your body is getting enough oxygen. This means that during an episode of dyspnea, when it is very difficult to breathe, your doctor or a paramedic will likely give you oxygen by mask at 100 percent or through a nasal cannula that fits in your nostrils to provide oxygen. If you are severely short of breath, the treatment may need to be continued in a hospital setting. If there are not that serious, here are various treatments you may take to manage your shortness of breath.
1. Use Medications
There are a number of medications that can be used to treat shortness of breath. These involve the following.
- Bronchodilator medication. These are medications that many people take for COPD or for asthma. They open the bronchial tree by relaxing the muscles around the trachea and bronchi, making it much easier for oxygen to flow into the lungs and carbon dioxide to flow out of the lungs. A common one is known as albuterol, which is usually given via a metered dose inhaler.
- Corticosteroid treatment. These are also referred to as steroid medications. Different from the type of steroids used by those who work out and what to bulk up their muscles, regular corticosteroids help reduce the inflammation of the airway and lungs. Those who have COPD or asthma may take steroids by mouth or through the use of a metered dose inhaler, like bronchodilators. They are taken orally, when the condition is so severe that the inhaled corticosteroids do not work. One commonly used one containing steroids is known as prednisone.
- Antibiotics. Antibiotics can be used to treat things like acute bronchitis and pneumonia. They kill the bacteria causing the infection, helping you to breathe better.
The breathing medications you take depend on what the underlying problem is. You should follow your doctor's advice and take only those medications he or she has prescribed for you as a shortness of breath treatment.
2. Learn Breathing Tips
There are techniques you can do that will improve your breathing so that you can exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide more effectively. These breathing tips can be done every day so that eventually, you can focus on the technique you are doing and not so much as your shortness of breath.
- Breathing through pursed lips. It involves breathing against some kind of resistance. What you need to do is to breathe in through your nose very fast for at least 2 seconds. Then, with your lips puckered, you can blow out the air forcefully but slowly. This causes an airflow resistance and keeps the breathing passages open. You need to breathe slowly, so the breathing passages don't close on you. Do this technique about three times in a row until you get the hang of it. You need to do this until you feel like you have enough oxygen and don't feel as short of breath.
- Breathing with activity. This is a shortness of breath treatment you do when you are exercising. You need to breathe in while stepping in certain ways and breathe out when stepping in other ways. There is a different type of breathing used when you are lifting weights when compared to the type of breathing you do when you do aerobic activity. Make sure you do this as slowly and easily as possible.
- Cough better and more effectively. This is a treatment you use when you have excess mucus. It involves controlling your cough to relieve your bronchial tree from having too much mucus in it. You basically take in a deep breath through the nose while sitting in a chair. Fold your arms in front of you and, when you have taken in a deep breath, you lean your stomach against your folded arms. Cough harshly 2-3 times with your mouth in a slightly parted position. Cough sharply and briefly. Then you should breathe in at a leisurely pace, sniffing slightly so that the mucus can be coughed out instead of going back down your trachea.
- Breathe through your belly. This is a type of breathing that allows you to relax and breathe naturally. The diaphragm muscle, which separates your chest cavity and your abdominal cavity, does all the work. All you need to do is to keep a hand on your chest and your other hand on your belly. Let your belly push out while you are breathing in, and during exhalation, gently push your bell inward to push the air out of your lungs. This can be used along with the pursed-lip breathing technique.
3. Try Different Positions
Besides the above-mentioned breathing techniques, you can also change your physical positions as shortness of breath treatment. Try changing positions whenever you are having any type of emotional excitement, tension, exposure to hot or cold air, or during increased activity levels. Here are some positions worth looking into.
- Sitting. You start this in a sitting position with your feet placed solidly on the floor. You then need to slightly lean forward with your elbows resting on your knees or with your chin resting on your hands. Breathe with your shoulder and neck muscles extremely relaxed. You can also do this by allowing your hands to rest on your forearms or on pillows you place on your lap.
- Standing. You first need to stand up with your feet placed as far apart as your shoulders and lean with your hips up against a wall. Bend over so your hands are resting on your thighs. You can also let your arms dangle in front of you or put the hands on top of a piece of furniture in such a way as to have you bending forward with your shoulders relaxed.
- Sleeping. In this technique, you can lie on one side of your body with a pillow stuck between your legs and your head up on pillows. Keep the back as straight as possible. You can also lie on your back with your knees bended and your head up on a pillow.
4. Change Your Habits
There are lifestyle changes you should pay attention to in order to keep yourself well and not short of breath.
- Stop smoking. Stopping smoking will decrease the risk that you might develop lung cancer and can help you breathe better.
- Avoid allergen exposure. You should also stay away from toxic substances and dusty objects, especially if you are an asthmatic.
- Exercise regularly. This can help you maintain a proper weight, so your breathing should be easier. Seek your doctor's advice prior to starting an exercise or weight loss program.