Text Size



Reset Text

Questions? We're here for you.

(800) 553-4289


What does shortness of breath feel like?

“Shortness of breath” is a kind of breathing trouble or labored breathing that often comes from chronic illnesses such as heart disease, COPD or other lung diseases. It can cause distress for you—and for your family/caregivers. Your doctor or hospice nurse may also use the medical term “dyspnea” (DISP-nee-uh) when talking about times when it is hard for you to breathe.


What are some symptoms and causes?

Signs and symptoms:

  • Feeling as though you are not getting enough air, out of breath or cannot take a deep breath
  • Fast breathing
  • Feeling restless or anxious
  • Tiredness

Shortness of breath may also cause you to feel afraid, nervous, helpless, angry, frustrated or sad.

What may cause or increase feelings of shortness of breath?

  • Anxiety
  • Movement
  • Exercise
  • Posture or body positions that restrict breathing
  • Coughing
  • Secretions (mucous) in your airway
  • Climate, especially hot and humid weather
  • Infection

What can help relieve breathing trouble?

Your doctor or hospice nurse will try to learn the cause of your breathing trouble and discuss treatments with you. Try these steps to help decrease feeling short of breath. Click or tap the “+” sign for details:


What should you report to your care team?

Call your Agrace team if you are with an Agrace Hospice Care patient who is unable to control their breathing or get relief from breathing trouble by using the tactics above.

If you are not in hospice care, call your doctor or seek urgent care, as needed, for breathing problems that are not controlled.


Hospice Caregiver Support

If you need help urgently, please call. Otherwise, email us directly at caregiversupport@agrace.org, or send your questions through our online contact form.

Call (800) 553-4289

Call to talk to an interpreter / Tenemos intérpretes disponibles: (800) 930-2770


More Care Tips for Families

For more expert advice from Agrace, visit Agrace.org/CareTips.