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Information Leaflets

Shortness of breath - useful hints

Here are some useful hints for when you get short of breath. Do not take on more than you can handle comfortably and when you feel tired STOP!


Please note: You can also download a copy of this information leaflet at the bottom of this page or view our full list of information leaflets.

Your energy should be spent wisely, there will be times when you wake up and know that you are having a bad day, or you may wake up and feel that today is the day you do the special task you have been saving for a good day.

The important thing is to trust your feelings.


1. Plan ahead, pace yourself.

2. Set priorities and save energy for the most important ones and the things you really want to do.

3. When you plan an activity, it may help to build in a rest period, e.g. time for a coffee break during a shopping trip.

4. Try to maintain good muscle strength in your arms and legs with gentle exercises.

5. Electric fans/hand held battery fans, blowing on your face, could ease shortness of breath. Alternatively you could open the windows.

6. To aid relaxation, find a quiet spot and try listening to some music that you like.

7. When you make the bed try to half make the bed while you are still in it. Pull up the sheet and blanket (or duvet) on one side and smooth them out. Get out of bed from the unmade side, which is then easy to finish.


1. Regular nutrition and small meals are important to provide energy, strengthen breathing muscles and protect you against chest infections. However, eating can make you short of breath, so you may find eating a little and often is better than a large meal.

2. Allow the washing up to dry on the draining board rather than drying it with a tea towel.


1. If brushing your teeth is a chore, try an electric toothbrush.

2. Sit for activities, e.g. washing, preparing food.

3. Choose loose clothing and especially avoid tight clothes that go over your head.

4. If showering, sit on a stool/chair. Have grab rails and a non-slip mat installed, as they will help you keep your balance. Do not have the water too hot. To reduce the amount of steam produced, open the door and windows if possible.

5. When bathing, use a bath seat if you have difficulty getting up out of the bath.

6. A strip wash can be less taxing than a full bath or shower.

7. If you are very short of breath or unsteady, it is best not to shower/bath without someone present in the house and do not lock the bathroom door.

8. Avoid scented soaps/perfumes and aerosol sprays as they can make you short of breath.

9. To aid washing, a long handled bath sponge may help.

10. If drying yourself is difficult after a bath/shower, try wrapping yourself in a terry-towelling bathrobe. A long handled dry sponge may help with your toes.

11. Avoid hair styles that require lots of styling, as using your arms above your head can be very tiring and make you more short of breath.


1. Walking aids can ease the work of breathing, as they give something safe to rest on when you are short of breath.

2. Your District Nurse can organise a wheelchair for you to enable you to continue with activities that you may otherwise have to stop.

3. To decrease anxiety, a care line may be of benefit. These can be ordered via Social Services.

4. Long handled shoehorns help to avoid bending too much. Long handled helping hands may also be of benefit.

5. Avoid bending and stretching if you can, keep the things you use most often within easy reach at waist height.

6. When bending, have something secure to hold on to, to help you stand up again.

7. Try not to make too many trips up and down the stairs. Place a bag at the bottom and top of the stairs to collect items, and take them up and down at the same time, so long as they are not too heavy.

8. It is a good idea to have a chair at the top of the stairs to sit and rest on when you get to the top.

9. Use a small trolley to move objects around the house or do the housework. You can then lean on it if you get short of breath.


1. Try to shop at the least busy times.

2. Use a shopping trolley, even if you think you are not buying much so that you can lean on it as you walk round the shop.

3. Ask a member of staff in the supermarket to help you pack your shopping bags and carry them to your car for you.

4. You could try Internet shopping and home deliveries.

5. There are services that can help you with transport and mobility. Shopmobility, for instance, lends wheelchairs and powered scooters for shopping purposes.

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