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Respiratory Physiotherapy to Improve Breathlessness- Symptoms of COVID-19

What do to if you feel shortness of breath


Another common symptom of COVID-19 is shortness of breath. Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath is also called dyspnea. It has been raising a lot of questions, including what the sensation feels like, what to do to improve your breathing and when you it might justify a call to your doctor or go to the emergency.

Shortness of breath usually feel like an increased work or effort to breathe, chest tightness, the feeling of not getting enough oxygen in your lungs or have only 20% of your lungs working.

If a person has COVID-19, shortness of breath can happen as a result of the development of pneumonia, an inflammation of the lungs linked to a Coronavirus infection.

What to do if you feel shortness of breath:

1. Do not panic. Your breathing will settle.

2. Stop doing the activity or do it slowly

3. Keep the room cool

4. Remember to take rests and use one of these positions (Click here to see the positions) before you get too short of breath.

5. Try to feel more relaxed and calm each time you breath out

6. Breath in through your nose and breath out either though your nose or mouth.

7. You can try to do a Pursed-lip breathing

This exercise reduces the number of breaths you take and keeps your airways open longer. More air is able to flow in and out of your lungs and you can be more physically active. Also, this can help to relieve the perception of breathlessness.


1) Sit down in a chair, feet apart and relax neck and shoulders

2) Breath slowly through your nose and keep your mouth closed.

3) Exhale slowly through pursed lips, breathe out at least twice as long through your mouth. E.g. Inhale for 2 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds.

4) Repeat it until your breath becomes normal.

5) If you continue feeling short of breath, call for medical assistance.

Important points:

Please note: Deep breathing exercises for people with underlying lung conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are not recommended by respiratory physiotherapists as it can make their underlying condition worse.

Breathing through the nose warms and humidifies the air and is less likely to make the cough worse.

Only take 3 or 4 deep breaths before having a rest, so that you don’t hyperventilate and make yourself dizzy.

Deep breathing exercises may be helpful to help re-expand the lungs once the infection has passed and you can get back to gentle exercise.

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