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Living with Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath can usually be controlled by medication, breathing techniques, exercise and supplemental oxygen. Other things you can do to prevent and control shortness of breath include:

  • Pace yourself.
  • Try not to hold your breath.
  • Use pursed lips breathing technique.
  • Sit in front of a fan so it is blowing on your face.
  • Ask your doctor if pulmonary rehab is right for you.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Avoid exertions at elevations above 5000 feet unless trained and adapted.
  • Avoid triggers that worsen asthma.
  • Avoid exposure to pollutants in the air both indoors and out.
  • Stop smoking. The benefits of quitting include decreasing your risk for lung disease and heart disease even if you have been smoking a long time.
  • Get a general health checkup, since shortness of breath is often a symptom of a more serious problem.
  • Speak up to your healthcare provider about concerns and worries about your shortness of breath.
  • Continue medications on the schedule that has been recommended to you.
  • Follow a disease management action plan developed with your healthcare provider.
  • If you rely on supplemental oxygen be sure your supply is adequate and the equipment works properly.

    This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.

    Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed June 14, 2016.

    Page Last Updated: April 8, 2019

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