It can be hard to live with breathlessness, but there are ways you can manage it to help you live well with it.
Many people who have heart or lung conditions experience breathlessness on a daily basis. Breathlessness affects your life in a number of ways. For example, it can make it difficult for you to manage your everyday activities, leaving you frustrated and sometimes frightened.
You will have worked out some ways to help you live well with your breathlessness, but there may be some extra ideas you have not come across before below.
It is important to remember that if you suddenly experience breathlessness, or it becomes much worse than usual, you should seek medical help, as it may be a sign of a problem which needs immediate treatment.
However, if you have been breathless most days for several months then you can learn ways to cope better with this usual level of breathlessness yourself.
All image(s) courtesy of Hull York Medical School. Created by Anna Bean, in collaboration with people living with breathlessness.
Use a breathing technique to help you manage your breathlessness. Different techniques can be useful for different situations and underlying conditions.
Use a hand-held battery-operated fan near your face, as this should help you feel less breathless (If Covid-19 remains a risk, then don’t use the fan if there are others from another household present but use a wet flannel to cool your face instead)
Have the window open to get some fresh air
Arrange your home to make daily tasks easier and find simple ways to cook, clean and do other chores. For example, you could move things around your home using a small table with wheels and use a pole or tongs with long handles for things you can’t reach and put items that you use all the time in places that are easy to reach.
Use a towelling robe after having a bath or shower – this way you’ll use less energy than drying off with a towel.
Wear loose clothes, and wear clothes and shoes that are easy to put on and take off.
Plan your day, allowing breaks for rest, and pace your activities
Break down your activities into smaller tasks that are more manageable
Sometimes the effects of breathlessness can make it difficult for family and friends supporting you at home (sometimes called “carers”). They can worry when you are very breathless and will want to know more about how to help you.
Breathlessness can affect your relationships and make you both feel isolated. It is very important that family and friends supporting you take time to look after themselves well and seek support from others, including professionals, when needed.
The Carers UK website has useful general guidance for carers, and for information on supporting someone with breathlessness (and how carers can look after themselves) visit the Supporting breathlessness website.