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Managing breathlessness at home


The information below is available to download as a PDF factsheet in English.

Many conditions, such as heart or lung diseases, cause breathlessness. Breathlessness can be very frightening and distressing, even in milder cases.

Breathlessness may be made worse by fears about the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. During the current COVID-19 outbreak, you may have reduced access to your usual support networks. It is important that you continue the usual treatments for your underlying conditions (e.g. inhaler). It is okay to contact your usual health and social care team for support.

If you think you may have COVID-19, please contact the healthcare services in your country to find out what to do.

The following steps may help you feel less breathless. You might find some of these steps more helpful than others. Try them out and use the ones that you find most helpful:

Finding a comfortable position to ease your breathlessness 

Drawing of a woman sitting upright in an armchairSit upright in a comfortable armchair with both arms supported on the sides of the chair or cushions. Let your shoulders drop and relax. Rest the soles of your feet on the floor.

Drawing of a woman sitting in a chair leaning forwards onto a tableSit on a chair and let your body flop forwards. Rest both arms on a table or your knees to support you.


Drawing of a woman lying down in bedLie on your side propped up with pillows under your head and upper body. Tuck the top pillow into your neck to support your head. Rest your top arm on a pillow placed in front of your chest and your top leg on another.


Managing your breathing

In your comfortable position, loosen your wrists, fingers and your jaw.

Abdominal and tummy breathing

Rest a hand on your tummy and breathe in gently to feel your tummy rise. Then breathe out slowly through your nose or your mouth. Rest and wait for the next breath to come. You may find it helpful to purse your lips while you breathe out slowly. It may help you to imagine you are making a candle flame flicker, without blowing it out fully.

Slowing down

When you are comfortable with the tummy breathing, try to slow down the speed of your breathing. When you slow down, your breathing becomes deeper and more efficient. Imagine air filling your tummy like a balloon. You can practice this technique regularly so that it becomes easier when you feel breathless.

Breathe a rectangle

Cooling the face

Cooling the face, especially around the nose, can help reduce how breathless you feel. Try wiping a cool wet flannel on your nose and upper cheeks of your face. The use of fans is not recommended during the COVID-19 outbreak due to the risk of it spreading infection.


Tips for living with breathlessness at home 


FootprintsWhen walking


StairsWhen climbing steps or stairs

HouseDuring day-to-day activities


Lightning strikeWhen feeling anxious


CutleryWhen eating and drinking


PhoneKeep in contact


ExerciseKeep active


It is okay to ask for help.
Please continue to contact your usual health and social care teams if you need further support.

Additional resources 


Further resources for people with breathlessness:


Download this information as a PDF factsheet

Currently available in English. Translations will follow.