What is Breathlessness?

Breathlessness is the uncomfortable sensation of not being able to breathe either at rest or during any physical activity. Breathlessness makes it feel as if sufficient air cannot be taken into the lungs. This is also referred to as dyspnea, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

Why does COVID 19 cause Breathlessness?

COVID-19 is a multi-system disease that primarily manifests with respiratory symptoms. The infection with SARS-COV-2 that results in COVID-19 attacks the lung tissue and causes a range of breathing difficulties. Shortness of Breath is a concerning symptom for individuals with COVID-19 and depending on the severity can be associated with complications. Breathlessness arises due to the inability of the body to get oxygen from the lungs into the blood. Also, the reaction of the immune system to the inflammation that takes place exacerbated the pulmonary impairment. 

Common symptoms of Breathlessness

Breathlessness is commonly associated with the feeling of chest tightness. In COVID-19 this is usually not accompanied by wheezing as the airways are not obstructed. Breathlessness is usually exacerbated by exercise and in more severe cases can be noticed with normal day-to-day activities such as walking up and down stairs. When symptoms are severe, a person could continuously struggle to catch breath, bringing about an uncomfortable and unsettling sensation.

Tips to manage Breathlessness at Home

There are three steps that you can take at home to achieve relief to Breathlessness associated with respiratory infections such as COVID-19.

#1 Master Breathing Control Techniques

This is the stepping stone to achieving relief from breathlessness through exercise.

This technique which is also known as belly breathing, is simple and easy to follow.

  1. Make the body into a comfortable position either by sitting or lying flat.
  2. Place one hand on the stomach and the other on the chest.
  3. Close eyes, relax and focus on breathing.
  4. Breathe deeply through the nose, keeping the mouth closed. Let the stomach move against your hand.
  5. Then, breathe out through the nose. Feel the stomach fall down gently.
  6. Control the effort that is exerted, be as relaxed as possible.
  7. Continue doing this for over a course of 3 to 10 times.
  8. When performing this exercise, focus on the feeling at the end of each breath.
  9. If the breathing control technique is mastered, the breath out would take longer than the breath in and naturally, a gap between the breath out will take place.


Box Breathing


#2 Breathing Techniques

Once breath control techniques are mastered, the following techniques can be combined to achieve enhanced results. Out of the techniques given, it is better to talk to a physiotherapist to find the best techniques for the body.

1 Pursed Lips Technique

In this method, the person should be sat in a comfortable position ensuring the neck and shoulders are at a relaxed position. 


  • When it comes to Breathing air in, it should be done through the nose. 
  • Then, when it comes to breathing out, lips should be made in a pursed position as if a whistle is going to be blown.

However, clear focus must be put to ensure that exhaling is done gently and blowing out is only done as far as it is comfortable to the body.

This technique aids to slow the pace of breathing and makes breathing more effective.

2 Resonance Breathing Technique

This method is also known as coherent breathing. In this technique, the person who is having the inability to breathe has to lie down with eyes closed. 


  • First, air should be breathed in through the nose for a count of 6 seconds, keeping the mouth closed. It should be specially noted however, not to over-fill the entire lungs with air. 

  • Next, the air should be breathed out in the following 6 seconds, gently without interrupting the focus. This technique has to be continued for 10 minutes for better results. The exercising of this technique aids to diminish symptoms of Breathlessness and lung function. 

3 Yawn to a smile

This breathing technique can be used to open up the chest muscles and the diaphragm in order to regulate air flow.


  • The person has to sit upright ensuring a straight back is maintained. 

  • The breathing exercises commences as the arms are lifted to the shoulder height. As the sensation of the muscles of the back stretching, the mouth should be opened wide as if an effort to yawn is trying to be made

  • As the next step, the arms should be taken back to rest on the thighs together with closing the mouth into a smile.

4 Humming while Exhaling

The special feature in this technique, which is humming, ensures the person is in a calm mood ensuring that the mind remains in the restoration mode. 


  • Initially, the person should sit upright.

  • Then, with the lips closed, the tongue should be kept in a manner that touches the roof of the mouth.

  • Breathing should slowly be initiated with the nose, ensuring the lips are closed.

  • Once the air is being breathed in, spread the fingers at the same time.

  • When the lungs are filled with air, exhaling should take place chanting “OMmm…

  • This should be repeatedly done till a sense of ease is felt.


#3 Change Lifestyle patterns

Staying in Comfortable position

Breathlessness is closely associated with the lungs and the diaphragm. Therefore, positions that encourage the efficient function of the lungs and diaphragm help get rid of shortness of Breath. However, it is important to note that safety of the entire body has to be cautiously looked at before trying these positions

Quit Smoking

Smoking is one of the extremely high risk factors for dyspnea. Smoke-related lung diseases aggravate the effect COVID-19 has on the respiratory system. Hence, quitting smoking as a lifestyle change would positively affect fighting Breathlessness.

Cooling the Face

Cooling the face with a cold wet towel helps to reduce the sensation of breathlessness. This helps to cool down the entire body giving relief to shortness of breath.


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