Breathing difficulties

What causes shortness of breath and what you can do about it


Anyone who has experienced problems with their breathing will know how unpleasant and frightening it can be. There are numerous causes, some serious and others less so. If you are struggling to breathe and don’t know what to do then don’t hesitate to call for emergency help.


What causes shortness of breath?

Having a cold, flu or a chest infection can easily cause breathing problems. In most cases, this can be treated with over the counter medication and home remedies. Breathing problems can also be caused by being overweight, smoking and anxiety.

However, it may be caused by something more serious such as asthma, lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Make sure you see a doctor if you are experiencing problems with your breathing. They can assess your symptoms thoroughly to determine the cause.

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Why does it get worse at night?

It’s common for asthma symptoms to get worse at night and some people experience a form of asthma which only occurs during the night (nocturnal asthma.) Your airways tend to narrow while you’re asleep which is a contributing factor. The change in temperature might also cause breathing problems at night as cold air can trigger asthma. If you are experiencing breathlessness, coughing and wheezing at night then it’s important to see a doctor as untreated asthma can become serious.


Can allergies cause breathing problems?

If you have hay fever or an allergy to pets or dust this can affect your breathing and trigger allergic asthma. This is a type of asthma where symptoms only occur when you breathe in something you are allergic to. There are a number of triggers that cause asthma symptoms, including breathing problems. These include:

  • Dust mites

  • Pet hair

  • Mould and damp

  • Pollen

  • Pollution

  • Smoking

  • Strong chemicals

  • Food allergies


Could I be having a panic attack?

A panic attack is caused by severe anxiety. It can feel very sudden and the symptoms usually include hyperventilating (where your breath is shallow and coming on a lot faster than usual), a racing heart, sweating and chest pain. It’s usually accompanied by a feeling of dread or panic and can be very alarming to experience but they do not cause any lasting harm. If you are having panic attacks then seeing your GP means they can help you to manage them and also rule out any physical conditions which may be causing breathing problems.

Experiencing breathing problems can be distressing. Don’t self-diagnose and worry yourself. Seeing a doctor as soon as possible will help to take the weight off your mind and get to the bottom of your symptoms.



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