We all get out of breath from time to time, and that's perfectly normal, but sometimes feeling breathless can be a sign of something more serious.
That's why the British Lung Foundation have put together a quick and easy test to help you decide if it's time to see your GP about your breathlessness.
We can get out of breath for lots of reasons, but if you're getting puffed just doing everyday activities like mowing the lawn or climbing the stairs, then it may be time to check everything's okay. While it might be nothing to worry about, getting checked early on means that if anything is the matter you'll be able to get the treatment you need sooner.
The online test asks ten quick questions, using the Medical Research Council's breathlessness score commonly used by GPs and specialists to measure breathlessness. It works well because it pins down what your breathlessness stops you from doing.
Then at the end, you’ll get a short report with personalised advice on how to look after your lungs. This might suggest you speak to a health care professional, or it might give you tips on how to keep fit and healthy.
Getting out of breath shouldn't be considered just a normal part of ageing or be put down to being unfit.
Breathlessness is one of the main symptoms of conditions like COPD, which affects 2.2 million people in the UK and alters many aspects of day-to-day life.
If the online test recommends you should see your GP, they'll often ask you to describe your breathlessness. Taking a video of what happens when you get breathless can be helpful to show your GP what it sounds or looks like. Your doctor should then suggest suitable support for you and might make a plan to help you manage your breathlessness better.
How to manage breathlessness
We can all do our bit to regain control of our breath. Here are some top tips from the British Lung Foundation:
- If you smoke, get help to quit. There is very good evidence that seeing someone who is trained to help people stop smoking, as well as taking regular nicotine replacement and/or anti-craving medicines, increases your chance of being a long-term non-smoker.
- Get a flu jab every year.
- Try some breathing techniques. There are various techniques that you can use to help you control your breathing. If you practise these and use them every day, they will help you when you are active and getting breathless. They will also help you manage if you get short of breath suddenly. Some examples are:
- Blow as you go: breathe out when you are making a big effort, such as standing up, stretching or bending.
- Pursed-lips breathing: breathe out with your lips pursed as if you were whistling.
- Get going. Physical activity like walking, gardening, walking the dog, housework or swimming can all help
- Drink and eat healthily and manage your weight. Your doctor can help you work out what your healthy weight should be. If you are carrying excess weight you will require more effort to breathe and move around, and it will be more difficult to get control over your feelings of breathlessness.
- Some breathlessness is treated with inhalers. If you have an inhaler make sure somebody regularly checks you know how to use it correctly. Don't be afraid to ask to try different types if you can't get on with the one you have. Use them as they have been prescribed to you. Ask your doctor or nurse for a written description of how to manage your lung condition.
For more health advice, pick up a copy of Yours Magazine, out every fornight, on a Tuesday.