How to Prepare For and Manage Sudden Breathlessness

Dyspnea – or shortness of breath – can be distressing, especially for those with lung disease. We found a very useful video by The American Thoracic Society that can help you cope when you find yourself becoming short of breath. Click on the image below to watch Lynn Reinke, PhD, of the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, talk about how to prepare for, and manage, dyspnea. You also can read and print out a helpful document on sudden breathlessness, published by The American Thoracic Society. Click here to read “Sudden Breathlessness Crisis” in English, or click here for the Spanish version.

Lynn Reinke, PhD - Dyspnea Crisis Video


  • Avatar
    Bruce Buckner
    Posted at 08:58h, 25 May Reply

    This was no help to me as a patient. Rather than giving advice on how to manage a dyspnea crisis it was just an overview on a work group with no specific advice other than the example of using a hand-held fan.

    They said they were making information available yet failed to give a specific link of where to get the information.

    Totally useless

    • Avatar
      Posted at 14:18h, 05 June Reply

      Dear Bruce,

      I totally agree with you and am bewildered as to why ATS, a prestigious organization, would publish such outdated suggestions as how to use a fan. I’m sure this committee was really trying to help those with sob. For some reason they missed this well documented technique. Dr. Brian Tiep and I first published this research on pursed lips breathing back in 1985. It is so well accepted that it is not even mentioned anymore as being used in all the research we have since published on exercise done at Harbor-UCLA. It is the first technique taught in breathing retraining, an essential element in pulmonary rehabilitation programs in the United States and around the world.

      In response to this ATS article I wrote my own suggestions on how to handle breathing retraining and use pursed lips breathing for shortness of breath and panic. It has now been posted on this blog. Click here to read the post. I hope the brief explanation in my blog post is a start to what you need. Feel free to send me your honest opinion of this as well as any other questions you might have. Helping those with respiratory problems through education as well as research is the goal of PERF.

      Best wishes,


      Mary Burns, RN, BS
      Assistant Clinical Professor, School of Nursing, UCLA (ret.)
      Executive Vice President, PERF

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