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Fast, Emergency Care for Breathing Problems

Breathing problems can range in severity. Some breathing problems cause shortness of breath, while others could have you gasping for air. Most breathing problems are medical emergencies. Seek immediate care or call 9-1-1.

At Dignity Health, we are ready to help you, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can find personalized emergency care for breathing problems in the Bay Area at our local emergency centers:

Visit our Online Waiting Room to select your estimated arrival time to one of our ERs.

What Causes Shortness of Breath?

Breathing problems can have emergency causes, including:

  • Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction
  • Asthma flare-up
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) flare-up
  • Collapsed lung
  • Heart attack or heart failure
  • Pleuritis, inflammation of the lining around the lung
  • Pneumonia, an infection in the air sacs in the lung
  • Pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the lungs
  • Pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure that affects the lungs
  • Trauma

Breathing Problems: Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of breathing problems include:

  • Agitation
  • Breathing rapidly
  • Confusion
  • Discomfort when breathing
  • Dizziness 
  • Feeling anxious
  • Increased difficulty breathing while lying down
  • Struggling to breathe
  • Tiredness

Other symptoms that can occur along with breathing problems include:

  • Bluish tint to the lips, fingers, or skin
  • Coughing
  • Nausea
  • Sweating 
  • Wheezing
  • Whistling sounds or Gurgling

Emergency Treatment for Breathing Problems at Dignity Health

Your treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your breathing problems. Call 9-1-1 or seek emergency medical care right away for serious breathing problems.

While waiting for medical personnel to arrive, the following first aid techniques can be applied:

  • After checking their airway, breathing, and pulse, start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) if necessary.
  • Bandage any wounds.
  • Give any medicines the person has for breathing emergencies. This may include an inhaler or an epinephrine auto-injector.
  • Loosen tight clothing.

If there has been an injury, do not move someone with breathing problems. Also, do not prop up the head or give them any food or drink.

Rely on Dignity Health to deliver fast, effective care during an emergency situation. Reach out to us today.

Dignity Health provides emergency care for breathing problems in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.