HealthSheets™


Conserving Energy When You Have Shortness of Breath

Woman sitting at kitchen counter, measuring baking ingredients.

Certain illnesses and conditions can make it hard for you to breathe. Conserving your energy can help you stay active and breathe better. Think of ways to make things easier and take your time to ease shortness of breath.

Keep tasks simple

  • Sit whenever possible, and keep your arms close to your body. Use slow, smooth motions.

  • Keep the things you use most close to waist level, so you can get them without reaching or bending.

  • Use devices that make things easier to do. These include electric can openers, reachers or grabbers, and long-handled items like shoe horns.

  • Use lightweight, nonstick pots and pans to cook. Soak dirty dishes instead of scrubbing them. Air-dry dishes, or use a dishwasher.

  • Mix, cook, serve, and store foods in the same dish.

  • Use a cart with wheels to move dishes and other household items.

  • Think about ways that others can help you. You might get help from friends, family members, or home health aides.

Pace yourself

  • Plan your time so that your tasks are spaced throughout the day.

  • Switch between hard tasks and easy ones. And allow plenty of time so that you don’t have to hurry.

  • Take 20- to 30-minute rest breaks after meals and throughout the day.

  • Sit on a bench to bathe. Dry off by wrapping yourself in a heavy robe.

  • Sit to dress and undress, shave, brush your teeth, and comb your hair.

  • Use steps slowly, pausing at each step. If you have steps outside or in your home, think about adding ramps or stair lifts.

  • Ask the checker at the supermarket to pack your grocery bags so they are light and easy to carry.

Talk with your healthcare provider about:

  • Whether you should use supplemental oxygen.

  • Whether you should get a referral to occupational and physical therapy. Therapists can help you with exercise, daily activities, and making things easier.

©2007 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All Rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.
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