I am living in Europe in the middle of this terrible heat wave and I have been experiencing quite frightening shortness of breath on a few occasions. All of this after an asthma-like attack once when I was about 14 or 15 and besides that I have seasonal allergies that sometimes make me wheeze, but I assume the current shortness of breath is only connected to the terrible weather conditions.
My question is what can I do to treat this shortness of breath naturally at home, or do I need medical attention if it happens again? I am thinking a lot of people must be suffering from the same ailment right now, plus much worse (heat exhaustion, heat stroke, etc) so I don't want to go to hospital if it is not necessary.
I am assuming this will get better when the weather cools down, but I don't know when that is.
I suppose it depends on what the underlying cause of your shortness of breath is. I have lived in some very hot climates and I can't say I have ever personally experienced this, but this was in my younger years so maybe that makes a difference.
I would try and make it as cool as possible in my home and probably stay at home, especially during the hottest hours. I'd have a lukewarm shower, perhaps even a couple of times a day because this heat can put a strain on your heart as well.
Now, if that doesn't make a difference and you are in a lot of distress, I would advise you to go and see your doctor.
People with conditions such as asthma and COPD are more likely to experience shortness of breath in hot weather, so perhaps it's time for a general check up?
Some tips that may help you breathe a little easier are:
* Keep temperature fluctuations to a minimum - don't go from a building with a/c to outside in one go, but acclimatize around the hallway for a bit, for instance.
* Don't exercise outdoors. But do exercise. Being fit is important, as is healthy eating.
* Drink plenty of fluids, avoid alcohol and caffeine if possible, keep stress to a minimum if possible.
* Ask your doctor about salbutamol. It may help you.
So, I'm the person who started this topic in the first place. An update is that the weather cooled down for a few days after a thunderstorm, and during that time, I didn't experience any shortness of breath. I felt positively relieved, in fact.
The bad news is that temperatures have been creeping up again, and as soon as that happened, my shortness of breath returned. I think I can now safely assume that my symptoms were indeed caused by the hot weather. The question is, is this normal? Does it still mean I have a lung issue of some sort?
Next time you experience dyspnea, there are a few things you can try to feel better right away:
- Breathe through pursed lips, a technique that slows your breathing down and helps you breathe more deeply.
- Lean forward with your torso, lean your hands onto a table, forward, or lie down.
- Stand in front of a working fan. Don't ask me why it works because I don't know, but apparently it does.
- Drink coffee.
These are only stop gaps, of course. Anyone who frequently experiences shortness of breath, even just temperature related, should indeed see a doctor to identify the underlying cause. It's not always the lungs. The heart can be involved too.
Dyspnea has many possible causes. I don't know that I'd personally see a doctor if I experienced breathing difficulties a few times on very hot days, but if it happened often, I would most definitely go in. The causes of dyspnea range from an obstruction of the airways to allergies, physical trauma, or chronic conditions you would certainly want to know about.
Don't smoke, if you're a smoker, and go easy on the exercise, if you've encountered this again since. Maybe make an appointment to rule chronic conditions like emphysema out, or in as the case may be. Shortness of breath is nothing to joke around with.
Smoking, being at high altitudes, environmental toxins, and being seriously overweight, are all bad news for people who tend to suffer from shortness of breath. Work on any of those as much as you can, as they apply.
If you've noticed any swollen ankles, cough, fever and chills, or wheezing, see a doctor. If your shortness of breath is so bad that you begin to be worried about whether you will make it through an episode at all, that's when you dial 911 or whatever the number is where you live. Or, if you are sure your doctor will see you right away, have someone drive you there.
I know that weather conditions make a difference to people with arthritis. I suffer from hypertension myself, and I do notice that my need for medication is reduced in summer, when blood pressure is lower. Sometimes, the combination of weather conditions and hypertension drugs actually make my blood pressure so low I feel terrible. But shortness of breath is not familiar to me. I have not heard of this happening, and I would seek medical attention if it happened to me. If it is related to weather conditions, your healthcare provider will tell you that and give you some advice on how to cope.
Like other folks have already said... there are apparently some emergency measures you can use to make shortness of breath better NOW. If this has been plaguing you though, the obvious elephant in the room is, what's causing this shortness of breath? Loads of people are exposed to hot environments without being unable to breathe well. Maybe it was dehydration? Dunno, just throwing it out there. If it happens again at all, and actually in light of what you say about having experienced something like this already, I think a visit to the GP is in order though. Even if they just say there's nothing wrong, that's good 'cause you can stop worrying then.