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Shortness of Breath First Aid

Causes, Symptoms and Treatment for Shortness of Breath


Updated June 04, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Being short of breath (otherwise known as dyspnea or difficulty breathing) is one of the scariest conditions. Responding to most victims complaining of shortness of breath requires calling 911 and supporting them until the ambulance can arrive.

Shortness of Breath Causes

Anything that interferes with breathing leads to either too little oxygen and/or too much carbon dioxide in the blood. The body needs some of each of these gases in our blood to function properly, but levels need to be kept in balance. We can deal with a little less oxygen for a while, but too much carbon dioxide needs to be fixed quickly.

Shortness of Breath Symptoms

The best way to tell if someone is having trouble breathing is to ask him. Shortness of breath -- also known as dyspnea  -- is a feeling, so asking really is the best assessment tool. If he or she can't answer you as a result of being out of breath, it's a strong sign of troubled breathing.

Shortness of Breath Treatment

Shortness of breath has many different causes, and the treatment of shortness of breath is specific for each cause. There are, however, some first aid steps you can use to treat shortness of breath, at least until the ambulance arrives or you are able to get the victim to a hospital. For victims of shortness of breath, try these steps.

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