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Examining Breathing Problems

Feeling a little winded from an exercise class or a burst of exertion, such as walking up several flights of stairs, is normal. Breathing problems are very different from a feeling of being winded.

Breathing problems can range from being short of breath to feeling as if you can’t get any air into your lungs, forcing you to gasp for air. Breathing problems are almost always considered a medical emergency, and you should seek immediate care or call 911 if you experience feelings like this.

Dignity Health St. John's team of emergency care doctors can determine the cause of your breathing problem and treat your condition.


Breathing Problem Symptoms at Dignity Health St. John's

You may be experiencing a dangerous breathing problem if you:

  • Are uncomfortable and feel like breathing is a struggle
  • Can see your chest moving to help you breathe
  • Find it very difficult to breathe when lying down

Identifying breathing problems also can include these symptoms:

  • Anxious feelings
  • Rapid breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Confusion
  • Agitation

There also are times when wheezing, whistling, or gurgling sounds accompany breathing problems. With such a wide range of possible symptoms, let our trusted Dignity Health doctors work with you to confirm or rule out conditions that could cause your feelings of being breathless.


Hard to Breathe? Considering Medical Conditions from Asthma to Trauma

Breathing problems can be the result of medical conditions that require immediate attention. Emergency causes of breathing problems include:

  • Heart failure or heart attack
  • Collapsed lung
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction that’s life threatening
  • Trauma
  • Pneumonia, an infection in the air sacs in your lungs
  • High blood pressure that affects the lungs, or pulmonary hypertension
  • Pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in your lungs
  • Inflammation of the lining around the lung


Breathless & Need Breathing Treatment?

Serious breathing problems require emergency medical care. Call 911 or seek immediate professional medical care.

If you are with someone who is having breathing problems, avoid moving the person if there is an injury. Do not prop up the head or give any food or drink. You can help by supplying first aid until medical personnel arrive:

  • Loosen any tight-fitting clothing.
  • If the person having breathing problems has medicines for another medical condition, give the medicine. 
  • Bandage, if possible, any wounds.
  • Check the person’s airway, breathing, and pulse, and start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if necessary.

Breathing problem treatments depend on underlying causes. Your Dignity Health doctor will work with you on a personalized treatment plan to help you prevent breathing problems on the Central Coast. Find a Doctor today to start receiving personal care.
Dignity Health provides a wide range of emergency care, including breathing problems, throughout the Central Coast of California.