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Managing Shortness of Breath

Lungs

Tips to improve breathing:

  • Plan periods of non-activity between periods of exercise and activity or slow down your activity level while short of breath.
  • Conserve your energy by taking breaks throughout the day: read, pay bills, write letters, or use the computer for fun.
  • Relax with music, meditation, and/or yoga.

If you have increased shortness of breath, follow the guidelines below:

  • Limit sodium and fluid for two days, then call your doctor or nurse if your weight hasn’t decreased and/or you remain short of breath. Your doctor or nurse will want to know your weight today and before you decreased your sodium and fluid intake. Your medications may need to be adjusted.
  • If you have increased breathlessness at night, try sleeping in a recliner chair. Use more pillows or use a supportive cushion so you are resting more upright. Notify your doctor or nurse about any shortness of breath that occurs while you are trying to sleep.

Positions to improve breathing

These positions are helpful when you have shortness of breath during activity, emotional excitement, exposure to adverse weather conditions, or when you feel tense and need to relax.

Sitting
Position for Sitting
  • Rest your feet flat on the floor.
  • Lean your chest forward slightly.
  • Rest your elbows on your knees or rest your chin on your hands.
  • Relax your neck and shoulder muscles.
  • -OR-
Position for Sitting
  • Rest your feet flat on the floor.
  • Lean your chest forward slightly.
  • Rest your arms on a table.
  • Rest your head on your forearms or on some pillows.

Standing
Position for Sitting
  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Lean your hips against a wall.
  • Rest your hands on your thighs.
  • Relax your shoulders, leaning forward slightly and dangling your arms in front of you.
  • -OR-
Position for Sitting
  • Rest your elbows or hands on a piece of furniture, just below shoulder height.
  • Relax your neck, resting your head on your forearms.
  • Relax your shoulders.

Sleeping

Position for Sitting
  • Lie on your side with a pillow between your legs and your head elevated with pillows. Keep your back straight.
  • -OR-
Position for Sitting
  • Lie on your back with your head elevated and your knees bent, with a pillow under your knees.

Reviewed on: 4/2013…#12888

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This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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