Everyone experiences shortness of breath from time to time for various reasons. The medical term to refer to shortness of breath is dyspnea. Dyspnea is an uncomfortable feeling, and it can leave you feeling like you are unable to get any air into your lungs. Many people tend to experience shortness of breath all of a sudden for short bursts of time, while others experience this condition over the long term – it can range from a couple of weeks to a few months even. If you are suffering from dyspnea and you know that it is not being caused by any medical condition or medical emergency, then you can think about trying out some home remedies that are known to help alleviate shortness of breath. Most of these remedies are fairly simple and involve changing positions that will open up your airways and relax your body. Let’s take a look at some of these home treatments for dyspnea or shortness of breath.
8 Amazing Home Remedies for Dyspnea (Shortness of Breath)
Deep breathing is one of the most commonly used home remedies for alleviating shortness of breath. Breathing in deeply and drawing your breath right from the abdomen can help manage dyspnea. If you want to try doing this, then you should do the following:
- Lie down first and put your hands on the abdomen
- Now breathe in deeply through your nose – this should expand the stomach and allow your lungs to fill up entirely with air
- Hold your breath for a few seconds
- Breathe out slowly from the mouth, emptying your lungs
- You should repeat this patter for at least 5 to 10 minutes
You can try doing this deep breathing exercise several times in a day or as often as you experience shortness of breath. Keep your breathing slow and easy and deep, instead of trying to rush into deep breathing.
Pursed Lip Breathing
Another easy way of controlling shortness of breath with simple home remedy is by trying pursed-lip breathing. This technique of breathing helps to quickly slow down the pace of breathing, making it more effective to breathe and also helping make each breath deeper.(1)
Pursed lip breathing also helps to release air that is trapped inside your lungs. This breathing method can be used whenever you experience shortness of breathing, especially if you are feeling short of breath during a difficult part of some activity. For example, climbing stairs, lifting objects, or bending.
Here’s how you can perform pursed-lip breath:
- Relax your shoulder and neck muscles. You can also sit on a chair with your back straight while doing this.
- Breathe in slowly through the nose for two counts (keep your mouth closed during this step)
- Now purse your lips as if you are going to whistle
- Breathe out gently and slowly through your pursed lips while counting till four
You can keep doing this throughout the day until you start feeling better or you can also try doing this exercise whenever you feel short of breath.
Use a Fan
Studies(2) have shown that using a handheld fan for blowing air across your face and your nose can help alleviate your sense of breathlessness. Having the fan put the air onto your face while you inhale will make it feel like more air is entering your lungs. This home remedy has been found to be effective in decreasing shortness of breath and make you feel more in control of your breathing.
However, researchers were not able to find that using a fan actually improved the symptoms of dyspnea if the breathlessness is being caused by an underlying medical condition.
Sitting to Make Breathing Easier
Resting while you are sitting in a chair can help make your breathing easier and also help relax your body. You can do this home remedy in the following way:
- Sit on a chair while keeping your feet flat on the floor.
- Lean your chest slightly forward
- Gently and slowly rest your elbows on your knees, or you can also hold your chin in your hands.
- Keep your shoulder and neck muscles relaxed.
Try These Different Comfortable Positions
Finding a comfortable position that will support your breathing can help you get relief from breathlessness. You can stand or lie down in positions that will help you relax and catch your breath. If dyspnea is being caused by overexertion or by anxiety, then this method can be especially helpful.
Here are some tried and tested positions that can help alleviate your breathing and relieve pressure on your airways:
- Lean against a wall to support your back
- Sit forward in a chair and have the head supported by a table
- Lie down with your knees and head being supported by pillows
- Stand with your hands being supported on a table so that it takes the weight off your feet
Try Inhaling Steam
Steam inhalation is an excellent home remedy for shortness of breath. When you inhale steam, it helps to open up your nasal passages, keeping them clear. This helps make it easier to breathe. The moisture and heat from the steam also help break down the mucus present in the lungs, reducing the feeling of breathlessness.
You can try steam inhalation at home by doing the following:
- Fill up a bowl with very hot steaming water
- Try adding a couple of drops of eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil
- Place your face over the bowl of water and cover your head with a towel
- Now take deep breaths while inhaling the steam
Keep in mind that you allow the water to slightly cool down right after being boiled. The steam might scald your skin if you are not careful.
Diaphragmatic Breathing Technique
Diaphragmatic breathing can help you get relief from shortness of breath. If you want to try this technique, you can follow these steps:
- Sit on a chair with relaxed shoulders, neck, and head, and bend your knees.
- Place your hand on your abdomen.
- Breathe in slowly and gently through the nose.
- While breathing in, you should be able to feel your abdomen moving under your hand.
- While exhaling, tighten your abdominal muscles. Now you should feel your abdomen falling inward.
- Breathe out through your mouth while having pursed lips.
- It is important to put more emphasis on exhaling rather than inhaling.
- Keep exhaling for a longer time than you normally do, and then gently and slowly inhale once again.
Repeat the exercise for at least five minutes.
Having Black Coffee
Many medical experts believe that drinking black coffee can be a useful home remedy to treat shortness of breath. This is because caffeine is known to reduce fatigue in the muscles of the airway.
Research has shown that this effect of caffeine helps improve (although slightly) the way in which the airway functions in people who have asthma. The effect of caffeine on the airway is just enough to make it easier for the person to breathe and take in more air.(3)
However, at the same time, remember that it is not good to drink too much coffee as that can increase your heart rate. So it is best to carefully monitor your caffeine intake if you are having coffee for helping with dyspnea, and do not drink too much during the day.
There can be many possible causes of dyspnea or shortness of breath, and some of these causes might be serious and require emergency medical attention. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should call the emergency number of your place (similar to 911 in the US) immediately and sit down:
- If you are unable to get enough oxygen
- If you are having chest pains
- If you are unable to breathe and feel like your lungs are collapsing.
There are also some prevailing symptoms that should not be taken lightly. If you experience any of the following signs and symptoms, you should make an appointment to see the doctor at the earliest:
- If you are experiencing continued and frequent shortness of breath
- If you get awakened in the night due to breathlessness or having trouble breathing
- If you experience wheezing
If your shortness of breath is accompanied by other symptoms, such as wheezing, swollen ankles, and feet, a high fever, or any other symptoms, then you must consult your doctor immediately. Delaying consultation and diagnosis can prove to be life-threatening in some cases.
- Nield, M.A., Hoo, G.W.S., Roper, J.M. and Santiago, S., 2007. Efficacy of pursed-lips breathing: a breathing pattern retraining strategy for dyspnea reduction. Journal of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and prevention, 27(4), pp.237-244.
- Galbraith, S., Fagan, P., Perkins, P., Lynch, A. and Booth, S., 2010. Does the use of a handheld fan improve chronic dyspnea? A randomized, controlled, crossover trial. Journal of pain and symptom management, 39(5), pp.831-838.
- Anon, (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001112.pub2/full [Accessed 2 Jul. 2019].
- Dyspnea on Exertion or Shortness of Breath on Exertion: Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis
- Dyspnea: What Can Make You Short of Breath?