Breathlessness

It is very common for people with Post Covid symptoms to feel breathless. Breathlessness can occur for lots of reasons but it can often make people feel scared, anxious or start to panic and may limit your daily activities.

Common signs of breathlessness include:

  • Getting short of breath when walking up and down the stairs.
  • Finding it difficult to go for a walk, and keep having to stop to ‘catch’ your breath.
  • Feeling that breathing is really hard work and your shoulders are going up and down as you breathe.
  • You may find yourself getting tense and gripping things to help yourself feel less breathless.
  • You may feel like you have tightness in your chest.

It is important to remember:

  • We all get breathless with exercise that is challenging for us.
  • Getting short of breath with exercise is normal.

There are a number of approaches you can use to help manage your breathlessness, including:

  • Pace and planning your activities, try not to rush or do things rapidly. Try and conserve your energy and get a balance between activity and rest.
  • Choose the best time of the day to do certain activities and plan ahead, thinking about what you might need to do the task.
  • You may be able to break individual tasks down into smaller ones that are more manageable. It may be possible to spread the activities throughout the day or week and alternate lighter tasks with heavier ones.
  • Take rests before, during and after completing a task, frequent short rest periods are better than a few longer ones. The practice of resting before you become tired/ exhausted is very effective in helping to conserve your energy.
  • Do not overestimate what you can do. Try short bouts of exercise or tasks first and gradually build the frequency. It is easy to think you are fitter than you are and then overdo it.
  • Do not stop doing the things that are making you feel breathless. This can make the problem worse because your muscles will get weaker from not being used so you will then feel more breathless.
  • If you are using a walking aid, such as a stick or a frame, lean forward on it when you feel breathless. This can reduce the work of the upper body and help you recover your breath quicker.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is working closely with the English National Opera (ENO) to develop an online social prescribing intervention that will provide support to people recovering from Covid-19 and suffering with breathlessness. For more information, see: https://www.imperial.nhs.uk/about-us/news/eno-breathe.

For more detailed information regarding breathlessness, see: https://www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk/managing-the-effects/effects-on-your-body/breathlessness/.