Shortness of breath is characterized by an intense tightening in the chest or feeling of suffocation. Almost anyone can experience shortness of breath in varying degrees.
Shortness of breath may be due to non-serious causes like extreme temperatures, high elevations, and high intensity physical exercises although in most cases, shortness of breath is an indication of a health problem.
Your lungs are responsible for proper breathing. Lung conditions that may constrict air passageways causing shortness of breath include asthma, bronchitis, chronic sinusitis, emphysema, lung cancer, pneumonia, tuberculosis and other pulmonary diseases.
Your heart is primarily involved in transporting oxygen to your tissues. Conditions that affect your heart may also affect your breathing. These include coronary artery disease, heart arrhythmias, heart attack, heart failure and mitral valve prolapse (MVP).
Other common causes
Shortness of breath may also be caused by allergic reactions to foods such as milk, shellfish, peanuts, eggs, insect bites or stings, certain medicines and other allergens. Anemia, generalized anxiety disorder, lack of or unusually strenuous exercise and obesity are also common causes of shortness of breath.
When to see a health professional
Shortness of breath is more of a symptom rather than a sickness or disease and often indicates the existence of an underlying and serious health problem such as heart disease, multiple sclerosis, asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstruction pulmonary disease (COPD). You should seek immediate medical attention if shortness of breath is accompanied by the following signs:
- trouble sleeping
- high fever, chills and cough
- swelling in feet and ankles
- chest pain and a dry cough
You can reduce the incidence of shortness of breath or prevent it from getting worse by making lifestyle changes and using natural therapies.
Toxins from smoking cigarettes may constrict your air passageways and trigger asthma attacks or allergies that lead to shortness of breath. If you are prone to shortness of breath, you may experience immediate results once you stop smoking or avoid second hand smoke.
Get moderate exercise
Regular physical activity promotes regular oxygen supply to various parts of your body, strengthens your lungs and your heart and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Swimming regularly strengthens the lungs and is known to help individuals overcome asthma. Seek prior approval of your exercise program from a health professional if your shortness of breath is due to a heart condition.
Massaging your chest with a lavender oil solution may provide relief from shortness of breath as it also relieves anxiety that may trigger poor breathing. Relaxation techniques and proper breathing exercises may also help combat shortness of breath. A simple breathing technique that you can practise any time involves inhaling through your nose and exhaling through pursed lips. Some herbs that are also helpful in preventing shortness of breath include cayenne, mullein and chamomile. If you are suffering from a pre-existing health condition, it is best to obtain proper advice from your health professional before taking any supplement, natural medicine or herbal treatment for shortness of breath.Originally published on Sep 11, 2009