Seek emergency care if you have:
- Severe shortness of breath that comes on suddenly and affects your ability to function.
- Severe shortness of breath with a cough, rapid heartbeat and fluid retention at high elevations (above 8,000 feet, or about 2,400 meters). These are signs and symptoms of fluid leaking from blood vessels into your lungs (high-altitude pulmonary edema), which can be fatal.
See your doctor as soon as possible if you have:
- Shortness of breath after slight exertion or when you're at rest
- Shortness of breath that gets worse when you exercise or are physically active
- Abrupt awakenings with shortness of breath or a feeling that you're choking — these may be symptoms of sleep apnea
To cope with chronic shortness of breath, try to:
Dec. 01, 2018
- Stop smoking. If you've been diagnosed with COPD or another lung disease, the single most important thing you can do is to quit smoking.
- Avoid passive smoke. Avoid places where others smoke. Secondhand smoke can cause further lung damage.
- Get regular exercise. It may seem difficult to exercise when you have trouble breathing, but regular exercise can improve your overall strength and endurance.
- Theodore AC. Oxygenation and mechanisms of hypoxemia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 18, 2015.
- Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 28, 2015.
- AskMayoExpert. Hypoxemia. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- Broaddus VC, et al., eds. Acute hypoxemic respiratory failure and ARDS. In: Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 18, 2015.
- Vincent JL, et al., eds. Arterial hypoxemia. In: Textbook of Critical Care. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 18, 2015.
- Strohl KP. Overview of obstructive sleep apnea in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 18, 2015.
- Wilkins MR, et al. Pathophysiology and treatment of high-altitude pulmonary vascular disease. Circulation. 2015;131:582.
- Living with COPD. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/livingwith. Accessed Nov. 18, 2015.