Difficulty breathing or breathlessness can be frightening. Sudden onset of prolonged breathlessness for no obvious reason needs urgent professional advice. If you are concerned, call an ambulance.

If you become breathless as an expected part of your illness and have discussed what to do with your doctor, take any medication that has been prescribed and follow your doctor’s other instructions. Additional things that you might try are:

  • sitting upright
  • setting a fan to blow gently onto your face
  • making sure any pain is controlled (because pain can stop you taking deep breaths or coughing to clear secretions).
Advice for carers

Check to make sure that the older person always has good pain control. Being able to breathe deeply and cough to clear secretions without pain is very important to help avoid and manage breathlessness.