Shortness of breath which is normally known as Dyspnea is a very common yet emergent condition. Despite being common, it can be uncomfortable and distressing to experience. Fortunately, when it is not a sign of a more serious condition, it can often be managed at home.
The following exercises can help treat breathlessness at home:
1. Deep breathing.
Breathing in deeply through the abdomen can help someone manage their breathlessness. To do this at home, they should:
lie down, putting their hands on their abdomen
breathe in deeply through their nose, expanding their abdomen and letting the lungs fill with air
hold their breath for a couple of seconds
breathe out slowly through the mouth, emptying their lungs
repeat this pattern for 5 to 10 minutes
This exercise can be done several times a day, or as often as the individual experiences shortness of breath. It is best to keep breathing slowly and easily, and deeply rather than quickly.
2. Pursed-lip breathing
Another breathing exercise that can help to relieve shortness of breath is pursed-lip breathing.
Pursed-lip breathing helps to reduce breathlessness by slowing the pace of a person’s breathing. This is particularly useful if shortness of breath is being caused by anxiety.
To try pursed-lip breathing at home, a person should:
sit upright in a chair with their shoulders relaxed
press their lips together, keeping a gap between them in the middle
inhale through their noise for a couple of seconds
gently exhale through their pursed lips for a count of four
carry on inhaling and exhaling in this way for 10 minutes
People can try this exercise any time they feel short of breath, and repeat it throughout the day until they feel better.
3. Finding a comfortable and supported position
Finding a comfortable and supported position to stand or lie in can help someone relax and catch their breath. If shortness of breath is being caused by anxiety or by over-exertion, this treatment is particularly helpful.
The following positions can relieve pressure on a person’s airways and improve their breathing:
sitting forwards in a chair, preferably with the head supported by a table
leaning against a wall so the back is supported
standing with the hands supported on a table, to take the weight off the feet
lying down with the head and knees supported by pillows
4. Using a fan
Research found that using a handheld fan to blow air across the nose and face could reduce the sensation of breathlessness. Feeling the force of air while inhaling made it feel like more air is getting in. The treatment was found to be effective in reducing the sensation of breathlessness
Researchers did not find that the use of a fan actually improved symptoms when they were caused by an underlying condition, however.
5. Inhaling steam
Inhaling steam can help to keep a person’s nasal passages clear, which can help them breathe more easily. Heat and moisture from steam may also break down mucus in the lungs, which might also reduce breathlessness.
To try steam inhalation at home, a person should:
fill a bowl with very hot water
add a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil
place their face over the bowl, with a towel over their head
take deep breaths, inhaling the steam
It is important to make sure that the water is left to cool slightly if it has just boiled. Otherwise, the steam could scald the skin.
6. Drinking black coffee
Coffee may be used as a home remedy to help treat shortness of breath.
Drinking black coffee may help to treat breathlessness, as the caffeine in it can reduce tiredness in the muscles in a person’s airway.
Some research has found that caffeine’s effects slightly improve the way the airway functions in people with asthma. This can be enough to make it easier for them to take in air.
However, it is important to remember that drinking too much coffee can increase a person’s heart rate. It is best to watch caffeine intake when trying this treatment, to make sure not too much is drunk.
7. Eating fresh ginger
Eating fresh ginger, or adding some to hot water as a drink, may help reduce shortness of breath caused by a respiratory infection.
One study has shown that ginger may be effective in fighting the RSV virus, a common cause of respiratory infections so it might be very effective too.