Breathe Well

It seems obvious  – we need to breathe well.

Sadly, there are a number respiratory conditions that are experienced by our local population.

If you feel you may have a respiratory condition (usually affecting your breathing and activity levels)  it’s important that you contact your GP for support and diagnosis of this.

Anyone who develops a new cough for longer than three weeks should also see their GP.

New onset breathlessness should be reviewed by a health care provider especially when there is no underlying respiratory diagnosis. If you are unable to speak in three word sentences (or less) please seek urgent medical advice/ intervention.

Common conditions

There are several common conditions which affect the lungs and our ability to breathe well. The following links offer up to date information.

COPD 

Bronchiectasis 

Further bronchiectasis information is available.

Asthma 

Pulmonary fibrosis 

Asbestosis

Breathlessness Management

There are several causes of breathlessness for example; a respiratory or cardiac condition, being overweight, recovering from COVID-19, also after strenuous exercise.

Breathing control is a way of helping with breathlessness by breathing gently, using as little effort as possible:

• Breathe in and out gently through your nose if you can. If you cannot, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth instead.
• Try to let go of any tension in your body with each breath out.
• Gradually try to make the breaths slower.
• Try closing your eyes to help you to focus on your breathing and to relax.
Breathing control can also help you when you are short of breath or feeling fearful, anxious or in a panic.

There are other methods available to support the management of breathlessness. Please see the following links for help:

How To Cope With Being Short of Breath – Breathing Exercises

What can I do to manage my breathlessness?

Breathlessness

Some people find changing their position can help improve their symptoms, click on the following for further information:

How to Cope With Being Short Of Breath – Positions

Best Positions to Reduce Shortness of Breath

Disclaimer: new onset breathlessness should be reviewed by a health care provider especially when there is no underlying respiratory diagnosis. If you are unable to speak in three word sentences (or less) please seek urgent medical advice/ intervention.

Breathlessness with central chest pain is a medical emergency and you should ring 999 or follow your treatment plan as advised by your health care provider.

Breathing control and Sputum clearance

Some people clear sputum from their lungs (by coughing) on a daily basis, others only when they have a chest infection. It is important to be aware of what is normal for you. Any changes could indicate a flare up of a condition or be a sign of an infection. It is important that you contact your GP or alternative health care provider if you feel you have any symptoms of an infection.

Coughing can be tiresome and use a lot of effort, the following links provide guidance on sputum clearance techniques which can reduce the effort required for this and some handy hints.

Downloadable leaflets

The Active Cycle of Breathing Techniques

Pacing and Energy Conservation

Tiredness is a common symptom in breathing conditions. It makes you feel less motivated to keep active, which means that often you avoid activities. This can lead to you having even less energy, which can make you more tired. If this behaviour becomes a habit, the cycle can often be difficult to break.

Here is an idea to help you manage your fatigue:

If you imagine your energy in terms of having a ‘jug of energy’, some activities will top up the energy and other activities will use up the energy in your jug. Prioritise what you use your energy on. Try to keep your ‘jug’ at least a quarter full all times.

For further ideas to help manage your fatigue, click on the following links for further information:

Downloadable leaflets

Energy Conservation

Nutrition

It’s important to eat a nutritionally balanced to maintain a healthy body weight. Foods and fluids contain essential nutrients to help prevent infections and help with recovery from condition flare ups or COVID-19.
You may also find that breathlessness can affect the amount of food you can eat in one sitting; it may be worth having more (5-6) smaller meals through the day rather than three. This can increase your calorie intake but not overwhelm you in one meal.

Further information is provided in the ‘Eat well’ (link to same here) section but the following maybe helpful guidance regarding nutrition for people experiencing a diagnosed respiratory condition.

NHS Good Food

Eating well for healthier lungs

Food facts

Managing Malnutrition in COPD

Eating Well for Lungs 

Improving your nutrition in COPD

Nutritional Support in COPD 

Improving your nutrition in COPD

Eat Well

Taste changes and a very dry mouth may occur with some conditions/medications or if you have had a diagnosis of COVID-19. This can also have an impact upon your nutrition as you may choose not to eat as you can not taste your foods.

Mental Health and Psychological Support

It is not uncommon for those with breathing problems to experience periods of anxiety and/or depression.

Breathlessness can often cause anxiety and feelings of panic. Anxiety tends to make the feeling of breathlessness stronger, which leads to more anxiety. It is important to remember that breathlessness in itself is not harmful, and you will recover your breathing when you rest. It is also possible to try to control the level of anxiety you are feeling, and it is often beneficial to use some self-help methods to assist with the management of this. For example, mindfulness or relaxation techniques.

Think Well

Dealing with your mental health, anxiety and depression

Headspace

Samaritans

Mind

We Can Talk

ICU Steps

IMPACT on Teesside (psychological support)
30 Yarm Road
Stockton-On-Tees
TS18 3NA

01642 796630

Exercises

Being active can help your breathing and quality of life. There is no single activity that is beneficial for everyone so it is important to choose an activity that you enjoy that is the right level for you. Being more active strengthens your muscles and increases your fitness. It is also important to gradually increase the amount of activity you do, as pacing yourself can help with saving energy for other activities.

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a programme of exercise and education available for people with a long-term lung condition. For more information or if you would like to attend pulmonary rehabilitation contact your GP or respiratory clinic. Currently this is delivered via home exercise programme, My COPD App, virtual one-to-one sessions and face-to-face group sessions in various community locations.

For further information on keeping active with a lung condition click on the following links:

Move Well

Activities

My Health

Keep Active

Inhaler Therapy

Inhalers play an important role in the management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Asthma. When used correctly they can help stabilise the condition and reduce flare ups or exacerbations.

It is vital that the correct technique is used for each different device: the following provides some links to some of the most common devices. Please take the time to watch those relevant to yourself/ family member.

If you are not sure if your technique is correct or are not able to use the device as recommended please speak to your local pharmacist, specialist health care provider or GP practice who can review your technique and offer an alternative inhaler if required.

Note:  you should never use another person’s inhaler even if you have the same condition as strengths and ingredients can differ between devices.

Inhaler videos

Spacer Tidal breathing 

Spacer single breath and hold

Oxygen Therapy

Some people require supplementary oxygen to maintain the required oxygen levels in their blood. This is not always linked to levels of breathlessness, but is due to the fact their lungs are no longer able to function as they are designed: increasing oxygen to the heart and body and removing carbon dioxide.

If your health care provider thinks you may require supplementary oxygen you will be referred for an assessment to determine if it is necessary and also the amount of oxygen required.

The following link provides further information regarding oxygen therapy

Oxygen support

Oxygen therapy

Pelvic floor Exercises and Advice

It is not uncommon for those with breathing problems and persistent coughing to experience urinary incontinence. Pelvic floor exercises can be performed to strengthen the muscles around your bladder and can help urinary incontinence.

The following link provides further information regarding pelvic floor exercises:

Pelvic floor exercise FAQs

H@H (Hospital at Home)

The Hospital at Home (Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees only) service is a team of health professionals who are experienced in caring and treating patients with breathing problems.
The team will provide timely, safe and effective care and treatment to patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) within their own home and, or community setting, who are experiencing breathing difficulties.

The purpose of the service is to treat patients with COPD in such a way that they do not need to go into hospital for treatment.

The Hospital at Home Team can provide the treatment for a COPD exacerbation at home but you need to be referred by a healthcare provider initially so contact your GP practice and request a referral.

COPD flare up

Signs and Symptoms of Chest Infection

Whether you have a breathing condition or not, if you have any of the following symptoms you may need treatment as you may have a chest infection or be having an exacerbation (flare-up) of your breathing condition:

• Increased breathlessness
• More wheezy
• Raised temperature
• Feeling lethargic
• Coughing more than usual
• Producing more sputum
• Change in the colour and consistency of your sputum.
• Sleeping more

If you have any changes in your breathing it is important that you contact your GP or self-refer to the Hospital at Home Team (if known to the service) for a review.

For further information about COPD exacerbations click on the following link

Support for flare ups

Disclaimer: new onset breathlessness should be reviewed by a health care provider especially when there is no underlying respiratory diagnosis. If you are unable to speak in three word sentences (or less) please seek urgent medical advice/ intervention.

Breathlessness with central chest pain is a medical emergency and you should ring 999 or follow your treatment plan as advised by your health care provider

Support

For any further information or support with your breathing condition, including condition education, COVID-19 or financial support when living with a breathing condition click on the following links

British Lung Foundation

Get in touch with us to find
support near you.
Helpline: 03000 030 555
Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm
Ringing our helpline never costs more
than a local call and is usually free, even
from a mobile.
helpline@blf.org.uk blf.org

British Lung Foundation welfare support and advice