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Causes And Home Remedies For Shortness Of Breath

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Shortness of breath or suffocation can be frightening for everyone. Sometimes it is more due to sudden fear than the underlying respiratory cause. It is also called dyspnea is an uncomfortable condition that makes our lungs weak to get full air.

home remedies to cure shortness of breathe

The current condition of the COVID-19 pandemic makes this dyspnea more dangerous and dreadful. Though all dyspnea conditions are not related to COVID-19 infection, it is always necessary to be extra cautious about these symptoms.  

Some people may experience shortness of breath suddenly for a short period. Others may feel it over the long term – several weeks or more. Also, this happens even after climbing a few sets of stairs or when suffering from a cold.

Did You Know?

  • Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke can improve symptoms of shortness of breath. source: Lung.org
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation can greatly improve quality of life for people with chronic lung conditions and shortness of breath. source: Lung.org
  • Approximately 25 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma, a condition that can cause dyspnea. source: CDC
  • Dyspnea can be a symptom of chronic heart disease, which affects over 30 million adults in the United States. source: CDC
  • Anxiety and panic disorders can cause dyspnea, and these conditions affect approximately 19% of adults in the United States. source: NIMH

Causes and Triggering Factors of Shortness of Breath

  • Respiratory infections – bacterial, viral and fungal
  • Exposure to cold air, pollen grains, dust
  • Heavy-duty exercise
  • High altitude
  • Obesity
  • Respiratory diseases – Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Pleural effusion, Pneumonia, Lung cancer, etc.
  • Heart diseases – Heart failure, Heart attack, Undue fluid around the heart
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Anaemia
  • Anxiety-induced

Shortness of breath is an alarming symptom and a person should always visit his/her physician at the earliest if he/she experiences shortness of breath (it can be life-threatening); a timely intervention by a physician can avert severe morbidity or mortality.

Dr. Nikhil Yadav MBBS MD, CCEBDM

Home Remedies For Shortness Of Breath

If your dyspnea isn’t severe, then you could try several types of home treatments. Here are some home remedies that you can try when your symptoms are manageable.

1. Sitting forward 

 Leaning forward while sitting may help relax your body and makes you breathe easily. This position releases pressure over your lungs and heart. 

 Whenever you feel breathlessness, you may try this position by sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, leaning your chest slightly forward. Keep your shoulder and neck muscles relaxed. 

2. Deep breathing 

 Breathing deeply by using your abdominal muscle may help to manage your breathlessness. Lie down over a plane surface and place your hands over your abdomen. Breathe in deeply through the nose. Then hold this position for some time before exhaling out. People can also try diaphragmatic breathing. 

3. Pursed lip breathing

 It is one of the simplest breathing exercises that help quickly slow your pace of breathing. It is useful if shortness of breath is due to anxiety. 

 Before it relaxes your neck and shoulder muscles. Then, breathe slowly through your nose for two counts, keeping your mouth closed. Purse your lips as if you’re about to whistle. Then breathe out slowly and gently through your pursed lips to the count of four.

4. Sleeping in a relaxed position

 Many people may experience shortness of breath while they are sleeping straight. For those, you need to sleep in a propped position. It helps relax your body and airways.

5. Stem inhalation 

 Sometimes breathlessness may be caused due to the accumulation of thick mucus in the airways. It obstructs breathing easily. Steam inhalation may liquefy the thick mucus and help ease the breathlessness. 

6. Black coffee 

 Drinking black coffee may reduce your breathlessness due to the presence of caffeine in it. Caffeine works as a relaxant to the airway muscles. A study result suggests that caffeine slightly improves breathlessness in an asthmatic patient.   

7. Ginger

Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce lung inflammation. Drinking warm ginger tea or water may help you to calm yourself and breathe easily. 

8. Turmeric 

Turmeric has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that keep you away from all infections. We used to drink turmeric milk since our childhood whenever we have some respiratory illnesses. Turmeric packed with oodles of curcumin – the active principle that helps ward off allergic responses and the release of histamine. All these qualities of turmeric can help reduce breathlessness. 

 According to a study, curcumin may diminish the intensity of an attack and stave off episodes in an asthmatic patient. 

9. Onion 

Quercetin found in onions fights off allergy-triggered gasping and breathlessness. It is a powerful, natural antihistamine that inhibits the synthesis of compounds that trigger an allergic reaction and shortness of breath. It also contains sulfur compounds that keep respiratory infections away.  

Asthmatics should grate half an onion, blend with generous amounts of honey and consume it once every day. You could also cut an onion in half and leave it by your bedside; it ensures that you breathe easily through the night.

10. Omega-3 fatty acids 

 Omega-3 fatty acid foods such as fish-salmon and tuna help deal with breathlessness. They help prevent inflammatory conditions that could set off shortness of breath.

Shortness of breath can result from conditions affecting the lungs or heart and it is critical not to ignore this symptom. Seeking a physician’s advice for clinical examination is necessary to determine the underlying cause of the problem, as treatment options will depend entirely on the diagnosis.

Dr. Arpit Verma MBBS, MD (Pharmacology)

Lifestyle changes to avoid shortness of breath

Before you experience shortness of breath due to any reason, it is best to make some lifestyle changes so that you never have to see that day. Here are some you can incorporate from tomorrow:

  • Manage your body weight
  • Quit smoking and any kind of tobacco smoke
  • Avoid exposing yourself to air pollutants and toxins
  • Try to stay healthy through a balanced diet, enough exercise, and a good night’s sleep
  • Visit the doctor to diagnose any underlying issues

Also Read: What is Hyperventilation: Understanding the Medical Definition and Symptoms

When to visit a doctor

There is a multitude of shortness of breath reasons the internet can throw at your face. Hence, it is always best to visit your doctor whenever you experience the following symptoms:

  • Frequent or continued periods characterised by shortness of breath
  • Experience wheezing while breathing
  • Feel a certain tightness in your throat
  • You cannot sleep at night because you cannot breathe properly

Read more about: Do You Know The Foods That Are Good For Your Lungs?


What causes shortness of breath?

Shortness of breath can be caused by various factors, such as respiratory infections, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart conditions, anxiety, anaemia and obesity. It’s essential to identify the underlying cause through medical evaluation to determine the appropriate treatment.

When is shortness of breath considered a medical emergency?

Shortness of breath can be a medical emergency if it is sudden, severe and accompanied by other symptoms like chest pain, confusion, bluish lips or nails or an inability to speak. These signs may indicate a serious condition, such as a heart attack or pulmonary embolism, requiring immediate medical attention.

How is shortness of breath diagnosed?

The diagnosis of shortness of breath involves a comprehensive medical evaluation, which may include physical examination, medical history review, chest X-rays, pulmonary function tests, electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), blood tests and other specialized tests depending on the suspected cause.

Can anxiety or panic attacks cause shortness of breath?

Yes, anxiety or panic attacks can lead to shortness of breath. During an anxiety episode, individuals may hyperventilate, resulting in a feeling of breathlessness. Learning stress-reducing techniques and seeking professional help can manage anxiety-related breathing difficulties.

What are some home remedies for shortness of breath?

Home remedies for shortness of breath include deep breathing exercises, maintaining good posture, avoiding triggers like allergens and irritants, using a humidifier, staying well-hydrated and avoiding smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. However, it’s essential to seek medical advice if shortness of breath persists or worsens.

Can certain medications cause shortness of breath?

Yes, some medications can lead to shortness of breath as a side effect. For instance, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and some pain medications may cause breathing difficulties in some individuals. If experiencing any new symptoms after starting a medication, consult a healthcare professional promptly.

Can shortness of breath be a sign of anaemia?

Yes, anaemia, a condition characterized by low red blood cell count or low haemoglobin levels, can lead to reduced oxygen-carrying capacity in the blood, causing shortness of breath and fatigue. Anaemia should be evaluated and treated by a healthcare professional.

Can obesity cause shortness of breath?

Yes, obesity can contribute to shortness of breath. Excess weight puts pressure on the lungs and diaphragm, making breathing more challenging. Losing weight through a combination of a balanced diet and regular exercise can help improve breathing in obese individuals.

When should I see a doctor for shortness of breath?

If you experience unexplained or persistent shortness of breath, especially if it affects daily activities, seek medical attention promptly. Additionally, if shortness of breath is accompanied by chest pain, coughing up blood or any other concerning symptoms, seek immediate medical help as it could indicate a serious medical condition.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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