Breathing Difficulties- Causes and when to get help?

The fall in air quality, pollution, too many factories, and breathing problems are increasing. You are not the only one who feels discomfort and heaviness in the chest while breathing.
Problems in inhaling and exhaling, feeling suffocated, and shortness of breath are increasing daily, especially in urban cities.
Breathlessness after an exercise, running, or working out is normal; otherwise, breathlessness can also signify a fatal disease.
There can be several reasons for having breathlessness.
Therefore, in this blog, we will share with you the causes, signs, and treatments of breathlessness.

Causes and symptoms of breathing problems-

Asthma is a medical condition in which the person’s airways become inflamed, shrink and narrow, swell up, and produce extra mucus. All of this results in breathing problems. Asthma can be mild or fatal and varies from person to person. Sometimes, asthma interferes with a person’s daily life activities.

Symptoms of asthma are-

Coughing attacks

Wheezing, a whistling sound while exhaling, shortness of breath, tightness of the chest, and trouble sleeping because of breathlessness.

Colds and flues-

Cold and flues both occur due to respiratory issues. Cold can result from attacks of various viruses like rhinovirus, parainfluenza, etc. But the flu is a result of an invasion of the influenza virus. These also cause breathing issues and have the following symptoms-
Sneezing, coughing, chest discomfort, stuffy nose, and sore throat.


It is an allergic reaction that occurs and spreads very quickly. These allergic shocks can be by certain foods like nuts, fish, meat, etc. They can also occur by an insect bite. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening if not treated within time. It requires immediate treatment, like giving epinephrine shots.
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis are-
The bronchial tissues carry air swell, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Anxiety and panic attacks-

Anxiety disorders are mostly our body’s reaction to stress and emotions. It gives a fear of what will happen in the future or apprehension of the things that have not occurred. And panic attack is also a sudden fear of something unreal.
Symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks are-
a pounding heart, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, and chills.

Pulmonary embolism-

When one of the arteries that leads into the lungs gets blocked due to a blood clot, it leads to pulmonary embolism. It is a fatal disease if the treatment is not given on time.
Symptoms of pulmonary embolism
chest pain, cough, wheezing, sweating, abnormal heart rate, dizziness, and unconsciousness.


Pneumonia is a lung infection with inflammation and pus in the lungs. It can be mild as well as severe. Children, infants, and older people are at the highest risk of pneumonia.
Symptoms of pneumonia are
Chest pain, cough, phlegm, shortness of breath, fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a group of inflammatory diseases that block the airflow of the lungs. The conditions include bronchitis and emphysema.
Symptoms of COPD are-
Cough with mucus, wheezing, difficulty in deep breathing, and shortness of breath even after simple tasks like walking or daily activities.

Congenital heart disease

Congenital heart disease is a genetically inherited heart problem, like its structure and function. There are many types of congenital heart defects. It can change the way blood flows in a person’s body.
The symptoms of congenital heart disease are-
Breathing difficulties, breathlessness, and abnormal heart rhythms.


TB is a contagious disease that affects the lungs. A bacteria known as Mycobacterium causes TB. There are two forms of it – active TB and latent TB.
Symptoms of tuberculosis are
Pain in the chest, cough, phlegm, blood in coughing, shortness of breath, and swollen lymph nodes.

What are the risk factors for breathing problems?

Genetics: One may have inherited lung disease or some heart disease like congenital heart disease, making it difficult for the person to breathe.

Smoking and secondhand smoking: The more we smoke, the more we risk developing lung diseases like COPD and lung cancer.

Environmental issues: Pollution, toxic gasses, radon, arsenic, asbestos, and allergens like dust particles can increase the risk of developing respiratory problems.

Foods: There are certain food items which are allergic to some people. These food items can trigger diseases like Anaphylaxis. Moreover, have small bites when eating, chew the food properly, and be careful with the bones. Otherwise, it may choke you.

When to get help from a  doctor?

You do not need a doctor if you have shortness of breath due to a cold or after an exercise. It is normal to have breathlessness, then.
But if you have shortness of breath repeatedly, you must make an appointment with your doctor.
And suppose you have a problem in breathing and symptoms like chest pain, blue lips, nails, or other parts of the body, vomiting, blood in the cough, fever, confusion, and swelling up of legs accompanying it. In that case, you immediately need to go to a doctor.

How to prevent shortness of breath-

Exercise regularly: You must do some beneficial activities for your lungs. People with obesity and too much weight are more likely to develop chronic lung disease. They must exercise regularly to reduce weight and prevent it.

No smoking: Whether you smoke directly or are a passive smoker, you are at a high risk of developing respiratory problems. Therefore, you must quit smoking if you smoke and stay away from smokers while they are smoking to avoid secondhand smoke. And please do not start smoking if you do not smoke.

Avoid pollutants:

  1. Avoid pollutants like pollen, chemicals, radon gas, dust, etc.
  2. Wear a mask when you are exposed to dust or pollen.
  3. Have radon checks near your house.

Check your oxygen supply: If you have a disease like asthma and need a pump to breathe, ensure you always have your equipment near you. And do take your medicines on time to avoid dyspnea.

Breathlessness and shortness are not something that you should overlook. There might be a serious underlying problem. Therefore, you must go for a check-up and start with the treatment as soon as possible.

Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors