Breathing difficulties can range from being short of breath, unable to take a deep breath, gasping for air, or feeling like you are not getting enough air.
This article discusses first aid for someone who is having breathing problems.
Breathing difficulty is almost always a medical emergency (other than feeling slightly winded from normal activity such as exercise).
There are many different causes for breathing problems. Common causes include:
A person with breathing difficulty may have:
If someone is having breathing difficulty, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number, then:
Call 911 or your local emergency number if you or someone else has difficulty breathing, especially if you notice:
Call your doctor right away if:
Difficulty breathing - first aid; Dyspnea - first aid; Shortness of breath - first aid
Manno M. Pediatric respiratory emergencies: upper airway obstruction and infections. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 166.
Thomas SH, Brown DFM. Foreign bodies. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 57.
Wippold FJ II. Diagnostic imaging of the larynx. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 106.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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