Many conditions cause breathlessness, and this can be frightening, even if mild. This can be worsened by fears or anxiety relating to COVID-19. If you feel breathless the following techniques may help.
The aim of breathing control is to move from fast breathing from the upper part of your chest to slower ‘tummy’ breathing.
- Try to get into a comfortable position, or a position of ease, so that your shoulders can relax. When you are breathless often you bring your shoulder upwards towards your ears.
- If you can, breathe in through your nose down into your tummy. This helps moisten and warm the air before it reaches your lungs.
- When you breathe out you might find pursing your lips (as if blowing out a candle) as you breathe out may help. This helps keep the airways open. Do not force your lungs to empty.
- Sometimes it is helpful to place your hand on your tummy and concentrate of the rise and fall as you breathe in and out.
Try to make your breath out twice as long as the breath in. This helps you empty your lungs properly to make room for the next breath in.
Some positions can ease your breathlessness, by allowing the muscles around the lungs to relax and your diaphragm (breathing muscle) to work more effectively.
Often it can be useful to ‘breathe the rectangle’. This is where you breathe in for the vertical and out through the horizontal:
You could use a window or a TV screen as your rectangle.
Cooling the face
You can try using a cool damp flannel around your cheeks, nose and mouth area.
Cooling your face can help you feel less breathless.
- Prioritising – what needs to be done, what can wait, what can someone else do for you
- Planning of activities - consider spreading tasks over the day or week
- Pacing (bite-sized chunks): Can the task be broken down into smaller jobs and completed over the day
- Positioning (posture and heights) – can items you use frequently be placed at a height to prevent extra bending or lifting?
Further information on managing your breathlessness can be found here:
Accurate and up to date information on COVID-19 can be found at:
If you are not able to manage your symptoms – please contact 111 or your GP immediately, or if you are a Rennie Grove Hospice at Home patient – please contact your team on the number you have been given.