Shortness of breath, medically known as dyspnea, is a common problem that a lot of us experience from time to time. It is also known as belabored breathing.
Shortness of breath is basically a situation or condition where you have difficulty breathing or you feel suffocated.
It is normal to experience shortness of breath when in high altitude or when you perform a rigorous physical activity.
However, a number of health conditions can lead to shortness of breath. These conditions include; anemia, chronic bronchitis, allergies, respiratory disease, inflammation or swelling of the respiratory airways, and heart disease.
Shortness of breath can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. It is also worthy to note that shortness of breath is a major symptom of people suffering from lung cancer.
Most incidences of shortness of breath are not life-threatening. However, consult with your doctor if the frequency of your shortness of breath increases especially when you are just resting or if the shortness of breath makes it difficult for you to sleep.
Also, contact your doctor if the shortness of breath is associated with the following symptoms; chest pain, fever, wheezing, or tightness in the chest.
Here are tips and good practices, to consider, when dealing with shortness of breath;
- Once you notice that you are about to have shortness of breath, stop whatever you are doing and take a rest.
- If you are asthmatic, you could use your inhaler before exercising.
- You could keep a journal to know the things that trigger your shortness of breath and the things that make it better.
- Avoid being exposed to toxic chemicals as they could make you susceptible to shortness of breath.
- Ensure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and eating fluid-rich fruits and vegetables.
- If you are having challenges sleeping due to shortness of breath, you could use more pillows to elevate your head.
- You could use a humidifier to moisten your indoor air, especially during winter, as dry air could thicken mucus and trigger breathlessness.
- Avoid sleeping in hot or warm rooms as this could trigger or exacerbate your shortness of breath.
- Ensure you take short breaks when you are performing strenuous or physically rigorous tasks in order not to trigger shortness of breath.
Below are home remedies and natural ways to manage shortness of breath;
Ginger counteracts the effect of beta-blockers on the respiratory system. It works by loosening phlegm and reducing inflammation associated with asthma and bronchitis. Moreover, it has antibacterial properties which help to combat any infection. You can take ginger in any form, especially if your blood pressure medication is causing you the shortness of breath. For this remedy, put one tablespoon of pickled/fresh ginger in boiling water and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Sip the resultant tea slowly while still hot. Alternatively, you can chew a fresh ginger root to get rid of the congestion.
2. Quit Smoking
Cigarette or tobacco smoking can trigger shortness of breath. When you smoke, the level of your body’s carbon dioxide rises, and then the brain sends a signal to your body to increase the breathing rate. this creates an artificial sense of hard breathing and shortness of breath. Moreover, while damaged lungs cannot be reversed, you’ll stop the symptoms from getting worse when you quit. Furthermore, quitting tobacco smoking will reduce the risk of getting lung cancer. It’s crucial that you ask for support from family and friends to stop the vice.
3. Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing can be used to prevent shortness of breath if the symptoms, of the shortness of breath, are associated with panic, anxiety, and stress. Just lie down in a comfortable position with your hands on the abdomen and breathe in through the nose. Hold the breath for about 5-10 seconds and then breathe out through your mouth. Repeat every five minutes.
4. Steam Inhalation
Steam inhalation is the use of steam and moisture to clear the nasal passage. Just pour hot water into a bowl, add peppermint or eucalyptus oil, cover your head with a towel, and then take a deep breath. When you break down the mucus in your respiratory tract, you’ll breathe better. If you are performing this remedy on your child, make sure you monitor him/her to avoid scalds.
5. Black Coffee
If you have shortness of breath due to an asthma attack, coffee will give quick relief. Coffee improves the airway function and reduces respiratory muscle fatigue. To alleviate the symptoms of shortness of breath, drink 1-2 cups of hot coffee. Stay away from coffee if you have high blood pressure.
6. Pursed-Lip Breathing
Pursed-lip breathing is one of the most effective breathing techniques to curb breathlessness. Just relax your neck and shoulder muscles, close your mouth and breathe through the nose for 5 seconds. Then, keep your lips pressed together leaving a small hole at the center and breathe out. Use the pursed-lip breathing technique for 10 minutes to regain your normal breathing. Pursed-lip breathing also helps to relieve anxiety.
7. Eat More Beetroot
Sometimes breathlessness can be caused by anemia. Thankfully, you can eat beetroot to improve the condition since beetroot has high amounts of iron, calcium, fiber, vitamins, and potassium. Once you extract beetroot juice, mix with a handful of spinach, and then put in a juicer. Similarly, you can roast some beetroots, allow them to cool and then eat with pepper.
Garlic can help to treat numerous health challenges including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart problems, asthma, bronchitis, stomach inflammation, among others. It works by clearing the congestion in the respiratory tract. To curb breathlessness, boil some garlic in a cup of milk and drink every day. You can also chew a few cloves to inhibit the problem.
9. Walking / Jogging
While walking and jogging can be hard for people going through anxiety, it does help in restoring breathing to normalcy. Furthermore, walking will eliminate breathlessness, improve your stamina and help you lose weight. Set a goal of walking a few minutes every day and then increase the distance gradually. Such distractions would tune your mind to restore normal breathing.
10. Amla (Indian Gooseberry)
Amla is a medicinal tonic for managing shortness of breath. This fruit unblocks and widens the respiratory tract allowing oxygen to pass quickly. In other words, amla eliminates what could be blocking your respiratory tube. To prepare amla tea, steep powdered Amla in hot water for 15 minutes, add some honey and drink in the morning. Indian gooseberry also alleviates symptoms related to pleurisy. If you have high or low blood pressure, make sure you talk to your doctor before you take amla.
Honey contains natural compounds which aid in breaking down the phlegm. Honey also acts as a decongestant by removing anything that may be interfering with bodily processes. To unclog your respiratory tract, mix one tablespoon of organic honey with lemon and add in a glass of water. Stir well and drink the solution 1-2 times a day.
This potent herb comes with an array of health benefits including reducing inflammation, relieving heartburn and indigestion, preventing viral infections among others. Besides, licorice works as a natural expectorant and boosts the immune system. To prepare the decoction, boil licorice root for about 30 minutes, strain off, and drink 2-3 times a day.
13. Mint Leaves Tea
Mint tea is a proven decongestant thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, mint tea soothes your respiratory tract. To prepare the tea, add five mint leaves in two cups of water, boil for 30 minutes, and strain off. To curb breathlessness, drink 2 cups every day (in the morning and evening). You can also get the same benefits by inhaling the mint steam.
14. Bitter Gourd Root
Bitter gourd root is effective in treating asthma which is linked to breathlessness. Furthermore, several studies have confirmed that the herb can reverse the contraction of the airway (bronchodilation). This makes it useful in treating obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. Make sure you include this bitter gourd in your diet. Alternatively, you can crush the root and boil, with holy basil, in a cup of hot water. Drink the decoction 1-2 hours before bedtime. Avoid giving the herb to children and pregnant women.
15. Fennel Seeds
Fennel is a common Ayurvedic herb that can treat shortness of breath. Its anti-inflammatory properties help to open the bronchial tube making it easier to breathe. To make the concoction, put a handful of fennel seeds in boiling water and cover for 5-10 minutes. Drink the tea 2-3 times a day. If you’re looking for a quick fix, chew some roasted fennel seeds.
16. Relaxation Therapies
When most people are confronted with an unexpected scenario, they can run out of breath. However, a relaxation technique like meditation and yoga will help you deal with such difficulties. Moreover, such therapies will help you reduce anxiety/stress which could worsen your condition. As a standard practice, you should do the relaxation exercises in an open area where you can breathe pure air.
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