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Breathing difficulties - first aid

Epiglottis
Breathing

Definition

Breathing difficulties can range from:

This article discusses first aid for someone who is having breathing problems.

Alternative Names

Difficulty breathing - first aid; Dyspnea - first aid; Shortness of breath - first aid

Considerations

Breathing difficulty is almost always a medical emergency (other than feeling slightly winded from normal activity, such as exercise).

Causes

There are many different causes for breathing problems. Common causes include:

Symptoms

A person with breathing difficulty may have:

First Aid

If someone is having breathing difficulty, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number, then:

Do Not

DO NOT:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call 911 or your local emergency number if you or someone else has difficulty breathing, especially if you notice:

Call your doctor right away if:

Prevention

Some things you can do to help prevent breathing problems:

References

Cukor, J, Manno M. Pediatric respiratory emergencies: upper airway obstruction and infections. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2013:chap 168.

Thomas SH, Goodloe, JM. Foreign bodies. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2013:chap 60.

Wippold FJ II. Diagnostic imaging of the larynx. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2010:chap 106.


Review Date: 10/15/2014
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.