Long COVID: Breathlessness

After an illness you may find you have difficulty catching your breath and feel short of breath more easily. This is called breathlessness. This can happen if you've had coronavirus (COVID-19), even if you did not need treatment in hospital.

Breathlessness can feel scary but there are several things you can do to help.

How to ease breathlessness

Using a different position will allow your breathing muscles to work better and help you to feel less short of breath. You might find one position works best for you.

For example, lying on your front can help reduce breathlessness if you're recovering from coronavirus. Adding pillows under your chest or pelvis may make this position more comfortable. Only use this position if you feel comfortable and it helps your breathing.

Feelings of panic will often make your breathlessness worse. So, trying to relax in your preferred position will also help.

The NHS Lanarkshire website has examples and images of positions which can help reduce breathlessness.

Breathing techniques to reduce breathlessness

Breathing control

  1. Sit in a relaxed position in a chair with your back well supported.
  2. Place one hand on your tummy.
  3. Slowly take a deep breath in through your nose.
  4. As you breathe in, allow your tummy to rise up.
  5. As you breathe out slowly, feel your tummy relax down.

This may take some practice but can be very useful to help reduce breathlessness.

Pursed lip breathing

This can be useful to control breathlessness when you're walking or being more active.

Take a breath in through your nose. Gently breathe out through your mouth with your lips pursed, just like when you're whistling or blowing out a candle. Try to breathe out for longer than you breathe in.

Blow as you go

Breathe in before you start to move, then breathe out when you're making a big effort, such as bending down, lifting something heavy or going up stairs.

Non-urgent advice: Speak to your GP practice if:

  • your breathlessness is not improving
  • your breathlessness gets worse when you lie flat and your ankles are also swollen
  • you're worried about your symptoms
  • you're worried about possible long COVID symptoms in a child or young person under 18

Last updated:
23 November 2022

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