An adult woman experiencing shortness of breath.

When Is Shortness of Breath an Emergency?

Shortness of breath is not always a medical emergency, but it can be. It can also be a terrifying feeling, especially if you aren’t sure what is causing your shortness of breath. In many cases, shortness of breath can be accompanied by other symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest pain, and fatigue. In this blog post, Quality Care ER will discuss the causes and symptoms of shortness of breath and how to tell if it is an emergency. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please consult a doctor right away.

What Does Shortness of Breath Feel Like?

Shortness of breath, medically known as dyspnea, is a feeling of difficulty breathing. Shortness of breath can feel like a tightness in the chest, making it difficult to take deep breaths. You may also experience a feeling of suffocation or smothering, as though you are not getting enough air. Your breathing can be shallow and labored, and your heart rate may increase as your body works harder to breathe. You may even experience lightheadedness or dizziness due to the lack of oxygen.

What Causes Shortness of Breath?

A variety of medical conditions, such as asthma, COPD, pneumonia, and heart failure, can cause shortness of breath. It can also be caused by exertion or exposure to allergens or irritants. Many symptoms are associated with shortness of breath, including wheezing, tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, fatigue, lightheadedness, and coughing. Other causes of shortness of breath include:

  • Anemia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Anxiety
  • Blood loss
  • COVID-19
  • Blood loss

When is Shortness of Breath an Emergency?

If you experience any of the following symptoms along with your shortness of breath, it could be an emergency:

  • Severe chest pain that lasts more than 15 minutes.
  • Blue lips or fingernails due to lack of oxygen.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Confusion or disorientation.
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech.

If you experience any of these symptoms along with shortness of breath, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Can I Prevent Shortness of Breath?

A variety of underlying health issues can cause shortness of breath. However, there are steps you can take to remain as healthy as possible. Taking care of your physical health is essential in managing shortness of breath. Regular exercise can help strengthen your lungs and improve your breathing, while cessation of smoking can reduce the effects of shortness of breath. Eating healthy foods and avoiding polluted areas can also help reduce your symptoms.

Shortness of breath can be a sign of a serious medical condition and should not be taken lightly. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, along with shortness of breath, it could be an emergency, and you should seek medical help right away. Remember to always listen to your body and never hesitate to get help if needed.

At Quality Care ER, we can help determine the underlying cause of your shortness of breath and create a treatment plan that fits your needs. If you are experiencing shortness of breath, give us a call at (903) 417-0886 or stop by our emergency room.