When a person feels like he or she is not getting enough air or has trouble breathing, it is called shortness of breath. Shortness of breath is a feeling the patient tells you about, like pain. This may just be a problem when walking up stairs, or it may be so severe the person has trouble talking or eating.
Shortness of breath has many possible causes. These include:
Feeling short of breath is a common symptom at the end of life. Talk with your doctors and nurses so you are prepared if it occurs.
At the end of life, it is common to feel short of breath. You may or may not have this symptom. Talk to your nurse or doctor so you are prepared.
With shortness of breath you might feel:
You might notice your skin has a bluish tinge on your fingers, toes, nose, ears, or face.
If you feel shortness of breath, tell someone on your hospice care team, even if it is mild. The cause of the problem will help the team decide the treatment. The nurse may check how much oxygen is in your blood by putting your fingertip in a machine called a pulse oximeter. A heart or lung problem may be looked for with a chest x-ray or an ECG (electrocardiogram).
Try moving or changing positions to help with shortness of breath:
Find ways to relax:
Understand how to use these treatments to breathe easier:
Any time you are unable to control shortness of breath, you may:
Schedule a visit with your health care provider to discuss whether you would like to go to the hospital when shortness of breath becomes severe. Learn more about:
Dyspnea - end-of-life
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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