Shortness of Breath: When to Take it Seriously

What is “shortness of breath”?

Generally speaking, when you feel like you’re not getting enough air or when breathing involves difficulty, you’re likely to describe yourself as “short of breath.”
What causes shortness of breath?
There are times when it’s “normal” to experience breathing difficulty. Strenuous exercise is an example, especially if you do not exercise regularly.
Some of the common causes of breathing difficulty:

  • Pneumonia
  • Allergies
  • Obesity?
  • Anxiety
  • Smoking

Shortness of breath also can be a sign of serious lung or heart disease and should be evaluated by your doctor.

What do you need to know?

Call your doctor if you experience any of the following along with shortness of breath:

  • Chest discomfort.
  • Shortness of breath at rest or following mild exertion.
  • Disrupted sleep.
  • Wheezing.
  • Fever.
  • Tightness in the throat or a barky, croupy cough.

Call 911 or go to the local emergency room if shortness of breath comes on suddenly, is associated with chest pain, or if someone else stops breathing.

How is it evaluated and treated?

You need to contact your doctor who may refer you to a lung specialist for pulmonary function testing. This will determine how well your respiratory system is moving fresh air in and out of your lungs. A variety of medications may help treat the cause of shortness of breath. In more advanced cases, oxygen therapy may be prescribed.

How can I take care of my lung health?

In general, everyone’s lung health can benefit from:

  • Not smoking.
  • Regular exercise and adopting a healthy lifestyle.
  • Avoiding exposure to allergens, dust and secondhand smoking.
  • Talking with your doctor and developing an action plan for managing chronic lung or heart conditions.

We’re happy to have you as our patient. Your wellness is our goal. Patient education plays a big role in meeting this goal. Read about how to breathe easier, and live with asthma and lung disease: