Shortness of Breath : When to see a doctor?

Make a doctor's appointment
Make an appointment with your doctor if your shortness of breath is accompanied by:

  • Swelling in your feet and ankles
  • Trouble breathing when you lie flat
  • High fever, chills and cough
  • Lips or fingertips turning blue
  • Wheezing
  • Stridor — a high pitched noise that occurs with breathing
  • Worsening of pre-existing shortness of breath

To help keep chronic shortness of breath from getting worse:

  • Stop smoking. The benefits of quitting smoking are extraordinary. Once you're tobacco-free, your risks of heart disease, lung disease and cancer begin to drop — even if you've been smoking for years.
  • Avoid exposure to pollutants. As much as possible, avoid breathing allergens and environmental toxins.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Take care of yourself. If you have an underlying medical condition, take care of it.
  • Have an action plan. Discuss with your doctor what to do if your symptoms become worse.
  • Avoid exertion at elevations higher than 5,000 feet (1,524 meters).
  • If you rely on supplemental oxygen be sure your supply is adequate and the equipment works properly.