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Things to Do When You're Having Trouble Breathing

By Laura Latzko ; Updated July 27, 2017

If you have trouble breathing, you may feel as if you cannot get enough air into and out of your lungs, according to MedlinePlus. You could start to cough, wheeze, gasp for air or feel breathless as a result of breathing problems. People often have breathing problems because of a disease or illness, such as a sinus infection, asthma, lung disease, pneumonia, heart disease, allergies, a heart attack or another respiratory problem. Treatment for breathing problems is often dependent on the severity of your lung or heart problem.

At-Home Treatment

If you are having trouble breathing because of a cold, nasal congestion or another less severe respiratory problem, use over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays or drops or antihistamine pills. Nasal decongestion medications decrease the size of blood vessels in the nose, making it easier to breathe, according to MedlinePlus. Antihistamines decrease the amount of mucous in your nose, which also clears your airways so that you can breathe, according to MedlinePlus. Nasal syringes and saltwater nose drops are at-home remedies that you can use to clear up nasal congestion.

For nasal congestion and/or a cold, eat chicken soup because it can help to move mucous through your nose faster, which can help reduce or stop nasal congestion, according to the Mayo Clinic . Use a humidifier or vaporizer to create a moisturized environment in your bedroom, which can also help you to breathe better.

If you have a chronic problem that causes you to have breathing problems, you need to stop smoking, reduce stress in your life, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, eat a well-balanced diet and/or limit your exposure to certain allergens to reduce your breathing problems.

If you stop breathing, you will need someone to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on you. Let people close to you know if you are suffering from a condition such as a heart problem that could cause you to stop breathing. CPR is used to restore blood flow towards the heart, which can help you to breathe, according to the American Heart Association .

Medical Treatment

You should also seek medical assistance if you are experiencing chest pain or pressure, wheezing, insomnia as a result of breathing problems, a cough, and/or a fever along with shortness of breath because you may be suffering from a more severe respiratory problem, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

At your doctor’s office, you will need to undergo a physical examination, medical history and/ other tests. Your doctor may perform a chest x-ray to look at your lungs; an electrocardiogram (ECG), to measure electrical impulses traveling to and from your heart; a pulmonary function test to find out if you have a lung disease, such as asthma or bronchitis, or another test that measures your heart or lungs.

After you undergo diagnostic tests, you doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics or other medications, such as diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or beta blockers, to reduce symptoms, such as shortness of breath, that you are experiencing because of your condition.

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