CPR First Aid

Why Asthma Causes Shortness of Breath

Why does Asthma Causes Shortness of Breath?

Picture this; it’s a beautiful night and you are out for a walk. A person comes into view and your breath is taken away. 

While this has not happened to everyone, the idea is probably familiar to a great many people. 

Now, picture the same scenario, but as you are walking, you start gasping for any air to come into your lungs. Every breath is a struggle, but you keep on struggling because failing to do so may be fatal.

This is what asthmatic people feel. 

What is it about asthma that takes people’s breath away? Why does it cause breathlessness? 

By the end of this article, we’ll go into why this condition causes shortness of breath. 

Out of Breath: An Asthmatic Caveat

Before we get into it, a caveat must be made for feeling breathless and its association with asthma. 

It is true that having trouble breathing is a common symptom of being asthmatic. Despite that, having this symptom alone does not mean that a person may have a chronic condition. Typically, breathlessness is associated with several other symptoms. 

Additional Symptoms

Typically, shortness of breath is only one symptom in a group of many. With asthmatic people, they would also need to have periodic coughing and wheezing. 

Additionally, they could also feel a tightness in the chest area resulting in pain, quickened breathing, feeling very fatigued after exercising, and having a hard time sleeping at night. 

Thus, if you are breathless by itself, it may not be associated with an asthmatic symptom. Only when a combination of all these symptoms is felt can it possibly be asthmatic in nature. 

If you are feeling a combination of the symptoms we listed above, consult a doctor immediately.

Other Possible Conditions

There are many other possible conditions that breathlessness points to. Let’s take a look at several possible conditions.


Red blood cells help carry oxygen throughout the parts of our body. Each body part needs oxygen to operate. 

With anaemia, the amount of blood cells that help carry all of this around is significantly less than the body needs. 

This is why common symptoms of anaemia are being very tired and breathless. 

Coronary Artery Disease

Another possible condition is coronary artery disease. Again this has to do with blood, but this time, it is a lack of blood flow to the heart.

With hampered arterial blood, trouble with breathing and the tightening of the chest occurs. An increase in heart attacks and strokes is also present. 


Stepping away from blood problems, we head to pneumonia. For this condition, the lungs are attacked by bacteria and viruses. The result is inflamed air sacs in our lungs. 

Since they are inflamed, they cannot gather enough oxygen that our bodies need to operate well. 

Why does Asthma Causes Shortness of Breath?

When trying to understand why breathlessness is caused, it may prove useful to first understand how people’s airways normally work. It all has to do with the path of air and how it delivers oxygen to the various parts of our body. 

How do Normal Airways Work?

Breathing normally, the air comes into our noses or our mouths. Afterwards, it goes down the airway, travelling through a long tube that we call the trachea or windpipe within our necks. 

The trachea divides into two separate paths. These paths are called the bronchial tubes. Once these tubes pass through the lungs, they further subdivide into smaller passages where air travels. These smaller passages are called the bronchioles. 

At the end of each bronchiole, the path is tiny sacs that are filled with oxygen every time we breathe. These tiny sacs that expand are called alveoli. 

Through this whole process, we are able to procure and spread oxygen, allowing us to do all manner of activities. 

How do Asthmatic Airways work?

When wracked with this respiratory condition, several changes take place in our bodies that make it difficult to breathe. 

For starters, significant swelling takes place in the lungs. The bronchial tubes are also constricted. At the same time, the airways become overly sensitive and even twitchy. When the muscles in the airway squeeze together and swell, it gets harder to introduce air into the pathway.

On top of all of that, mucus starts lining and filling up our airways. This makes breathing even more difficult and strained. 

When something is bothering the proper process within our airways, it is asthmatic in nature. One can imagine how hard it would be to breathe when all of these things take place. 

How to Treat Shortness of Breath?

There are many ways to treat shortness of breath, at least when it is linked to being asthmatic. The first thing that people should know is whether they are asthmatic or not. Once that is done, the treatment would then depend on how serious or severe the breathlessness is. 

Mild Breathlessness

If the breathlessness experienced isn’t that severe, doctors may recommend a few things. One of the most common ones is the use of an inhaler. This inhaler helps push some much needed air into our body and lungs. 

They may also recommend certain breathing techniques such as the pursed lip technique. This is done by squeezing one’s lips closely like going in for a kiss after breathing. Then, the air is breathed out through these lips in a slow and measured approach. This gives a modicum of control to one’s breathing. 

Finally, coffee is also a good remedy for mild breathlessness. This beverage helps to relax the airways of people. 

Heavy Breathlessness

For those experiencing more severe levels of breathlessness, medical care should be sought immediately. 

The doctor may recommend certain medicines such as corticosteroids taken via a special inhaler and leukotriene modifiers just to name a few. 

Apart from these, the doctor will likely question one’s lifestyle and seek to improve it. Doing so may help in clearing the breathlessness. Doctors will likely recommend people to stay away from smoking and pollutants. They will also help establish a plan when the breathlessness strikes again.

One Breath at a Time

Asthma is a very serious condition that many people around the world are experiencing. A 2019 survey showed that over 260 million people were affected. 

Being asthmatic brings along many symptoms. One of them is trouble breathing. While this does not automatically equate to a respiratory condition, it should be taken as a to be cautious and to check in with your doctor. 

We hope that all the information that we have provided will help you in the long run. In understanding how our bodies work when breathing and what to do when feeling breathless, we can be better prepared to handle these situations. 

Asthma has no cure, but it helps to take it a breath at a time. 

Stay Calm and Act

When struck with breathlessness, the key here is to stay calm and act. Panicking will only serve to take away more of your breath. 

Apart from learning more about the asthmatic condition and our bodies, back this up by learning what to do when these attacks occur with you and other people. 

Learning about the relevant and useful first aid practices is simple with CPR First Aid’s Liverpool courses. Take it today and offer help to asthmatic people and more when the need arises.

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