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Shortness of breath is an uncomfortable feeling of having a hard time breathing. Learn more about your symptoms and what may provide relief.
“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.
Signs and symptoms:
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?
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:
Many types of medicines can help improve shortness of breath, such as opioids, steroids or nebulizers with inhalants. Take prescribed medicines “as ordered” (the right dose, at the right time, taken the right way, as often as is recommended). Write your doses on this printable Medication Tracker.
Medication (opioid) side effects: Opioid medications may have side effects. Ask your doctor or hospice nurse what to expect, and tell them about any medication side effects you notice, such as these:
If you are an Agrace Hospice Care patient, your nurse will assess your breathing comfort at each visit and discuss the need for oxygen with your doctor. Use oxygen only as directed by your Agrace team.
Try to notice what makes you feel more breathless, and tell your Agrace team. They can then help you to plan activities so you can breathe easier.
Hospice patients should ask the care team for breathing exercises and other techniques. The hospice care team will teach you how to use them.
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.