It is normal to get short of breath after exertion – this will usually improve with rest.

SUDDEN SHORTNESS OF BREATH FOR NO OBVIOUS REASON IS POTENTIALLY A MEDICAL EMERGENCY AND YOU SHOULD GET HELP IMMEDIATELY.

Long term shortness of breath could also be a sign of an underlying medical condition and should not be ignored.

Is this an emergency

IS THIS NORMAL FOR THE RESIDENT?

IS THIS AN EMERGENCY?

Are they too breathless to finish sentences?

Are they gasping for breath?

Is the client blue (lips, ears, tongue, hands)?

Are they exhausted?

Are they less alert than usual?

Check care plans and preferences of care.

If you have answered YES to any of the questions above, RING 999.

Whilst waiting, sit the resident up in a comfortable position or lay them on their side if they can’t sit up.

Stay with the resident. A fan may help ease their symptoms. Give inhalers via a mask if they have them prescribed.

Supporting a breathless person

Shortness of breath can be tiring and terrifying for the resident

Always seek help from a senior member of staff if concerned.  Make sure someone always stays with the resident

Keep calm and offer reassurance to the resident

Ensure that the resident is able to take their inhalers as prescribed.

Ring the resident's Doctor and request a visit.  Always provide as much  information as possible about what has happened and how the resident now appears  

Breathing easy

Positioning is important to help get the most air into the lungs

You could try:-

Sitting the resident as upright as possible

Sitting the resident on the edge of a bed or chair with arms resting at shoulder height on a raised table

If they need to lie down it is best to lie them on their side rather than their back.

Fresh air or moving air can help people feel more able to catch their breath.

Think about opening windows or using fans to help relieve the feelings associated with breathlessness

Always remember anxiety or emotion can make people short of breath.

If that is the case, stay with the resident; be gentle, firm and reassuring. If it is not settling, then rethink TOP TIP 1 and 2.

Resources

After the resident has been seen and assessed by a doctor or paramedic,

Make sure the resident can take their medications

Document in their records

Observe the resident

Does the resident have a plan of care if it happens again?

NHS Choices Information