Shortness of breath with pneumonia and not only: when it is worth sounding the alarm

Health Tips

What can be shortness of breath

Shortness of breath is the subjective feeling of being short of breath. It is accompanied by a change in the frequency and depth of breathing. There are physiological shortness of breath, which occurs in a healthy person during physical exertion, and pathological, which occurs with little physical exertion or at rest. Shortness of breath is caused by a lack of oxygen in the tissues. When the cells of the body experience oxygen starvation, adaptive mechanisms are activated: the frequency and depth of breathing increase.

In a healthy person, a lack of oxygen occurs due to its increased consumption by cells during significant physical exertion. Shortness of breath during daily physical activity and at rest indicates a serious pathology. In this case, the lack of oxygen in the tissues occurs most often for the following reasons:
  • violation of blood oxygen saturation in the lungs as a result of any pathology of this organ;

  • slowing down the movement of blood in heart failure;

  • a decrease in the number of oxygen-carrying cells (erythrocytes) in anemia.

Excess weight, despite stereotypes, does not cause pathological shortness of breath, unless we are talking about very large volumes. In any case, the appearance of shortness of breath is a reason for an immediate visit to the general practitioner.

Shortness of breath with pneumonia – what to look for

With coronavirus infection, shortness of breath develops in case of lung damage – pneumonia. In severe cases, the patient needs oxygen and mechanical ventilation (ALV). Sometimes a person with the development of viral pneumonia for some reason does not feel shortness of breath. Therefore, if covid is suspected, the oxygen content in the blood (saturation) and the degree of lung damage must be determined by computed tomography.

With COVID-19, it is recommended to call a doctor when the saturation drops to 94%. Saturations of 92% and below are generally considered critical. A person with such a low level of oxygen in the blood needs urgent medical attention. There are exceptions. For example, in severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is common in smokers, the saturation index can be from 88% to 92%. Usually the body of such people is adapted to a lower level of oxygen.

Do I need to have a pulse oximeter at home? The device is inexpensive and can be useful in case of covid development.

How to measure saturation at home

To get accurate results, you need to follow some rules. Data may be inaccurate in the following cases:

  • the device is fixed too tightly or loosely;

  • there is varnish on the nails or false nails;

  • during the measurement of saturation, the person moves;

  • there is too bright a light source near the device;

  • at the same time pressure is measured and pulse oximetry is performed;

  • taking measurements on wet or frozen fingers.

The skin on the finger that is used for the pulse oximeter must be free of cuts and calluses, that is, without anything that may interfere with the reading of the sensor. If a person has a saturation of 93-94% on one finger, it makes sense to check it on other fingers, and then compare the results.

And I will add that shortness of breath as a subjective feeling of lack of air often occurs with neurotic disorders and disruption of the autonomic system. In panic attacks, a feeling of lack of air develops due to a sharp release of adrenaline into the blood due to an attack of fear, as a result of which the tissues require more oxygen. With neuroses, in addition to shortness of breath, a person often sweats or, on the contrary, feels chilly, and may feel a lump in the throat.

Vegetovascular dystonia – a functional disorder of the autonomic nervous system – is often manifested by respiratory disorders: dissatisfaction with inhalation, a feeling of lack of air, the need to take deep breaths.

To deal with the manifestation of which disease is shortness of breath, only a specialist can. Therefore, in any case, if shortness of breath occurs, it is necessary to consult a doctor, and in case of severe shortness of breath, call an ambulance.

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