What to Do When You're Having Trouble Breathing

Having difficulty breathing can range from being terrifying and life threatening, to just seeming like an irritation that interrupts your life. In either case, you can't let it go on, and you should never have to suffer with breathing problems. If you are having trouble breathing, you can't ignore it – call your doctor as soon as you can so you can get the proper treatment.

If you ignore any breathing problems, you are essentially putting your life in danger. Shortness of breath is an obvious sign that something is wrong and is a sign of many different illnesses and diseases, both minor and severe. It's very dangerous for people with COPD, since an exacerbation ultimately causes the diseases to progress and decrease lung function even further. At the first sign of trouble, you should be seeking medical treatment.

There might be a circumstance when you can't make a phone call right away, or you don't have a way to get to the doctor or the emergency room. Maybe you are out somewhere and the battery on your phone has run out, or you are stuck at home during a snow storm without power. In cases like these, it's good to know some first aide and the steps you can take to help yourself, or someone else, who is having trouble breathing.

1. Figure Out What Caused the Problem

Figure out what caused the problem, in the first place, so you can possibly remove yourself from the cause and put a stop to it. You might be under emotional distress, in which case the best thing to do would be to try to calm down and make steps to do what you need to do to feel better. Another common cause is cigarette smoke in the air, or even mold spores. In these cases, get somewhere with fresh air, or have the problem/cause of the irritants removed.

2. Take a Deep Breath

Try to take deep breaths to calm yourself. Concentrate on inhaling deeply through your nose and slowly out of your mouth with pursed lips.

3. Drink Some Coffee

A few cups of coffee during an attack has been know to open up the air passages enough to relieve it before medical treatment can be given. Caffeine is a natural stimulant like most rescue inhalers, and the warm liquid can help to soothe tight chest muscles.

Preventing Complications in Emergency Situations

Many people don't consider these preventative measures until they are in trouble, and that's understandable. First, consider your cell phone to be your life line. Make sure it's on you at all times, with a charged battery, and keep a charger with you at all times. Have your doctor and a few loved ones help you program quick dials for emergency contacts. Most cell phones will also allow you to reach 911 even if you do not have service.

If you have a rescue inhaler, keep that with you at all times, as well. A rescue inhaler might not work 100% every time, depending on the severity of your condition, but it will usually keep you well enough until you can get treated. Check to make sure there is enough medicine in the inhaler, and order a new one before the old one runs out. It's also a good idea to have a back-up inhaler somewhere, in case you lose the other one.

If you are reading this article and are currently experiencing difficultly breathing, we suggest contacting a physician immediately. If you are unable to reach your physician, and this is an emergency, dial 911.

7 thoughts on “What to Do When You're Having Trouble Breathing”

  • Wasn't aware that caffeine is a natural stimulant. Very informative post thanks a bunch.

  • philip blay

    I'm unable to take a deep breath and gasping for air

    • Danielle Jason

      If you are experiencing life threatening issues such as gasping for air contact your physician immediately, or if this is an emergency, dial 911.

  • Lorraine Purcell
    Lorraine Purcell April 23, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Fur the last 3 weeks I have been ill with sinus and chest infection with bad asthma . I went to doctors and was put on steroids orally , combivent through nebulisers an antibiotic with penacillan in it and inhailors which to no avail I'm not getting better if anything worse finding hard to breath . Please could you advise me on what I should do .

    • Danielle Jason
      Danielle Jason April 24, 2017 at 7:42 am

      Thank you for your comment, Lorraine. If you are experiencing issues such as trouble breathing, we suggest contacting your physician immediately and discussing your symptoms. If this is an emergency, dial 911.

  • Catie

    I've been having some difficulty breathing comfortably the past few days. Still on edge about seeing a doctor about it...

    • Danielle Jason
      Danielle Jason July 19, 2017 at 4:01 am

      To ensure your health and safety, we recommend that if you are having difficulty breathing you contact your physician as soon as you are able.


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