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Breathlessness, Wheezing and Breathing difficulties

Symptoms of Breathlessness, wheezing and breathing difficulties could be due to:

Breathlessness, wheezing and breathing difficulties


Symptoms and indications: Symptoms usually develop rapidly, within a few minutes, and depend on the nature of the allergy. Common symptoms include nettle rash and skin reactions, swellings and puffiness e.g. around eyes, wheezing and breathing difficulties, headaches, stomach pains, sickness and diarrhoea. Medical advice should be sought.

Treatment: This depends on the nature of the reaction but commonly involves the taking of antihistamine drugs. If the allergic response is more serious, as in an asthma attack, hospital treatment may be required, with the administration of bronchodilator and corticosteroid drugs by inhalation. If the allergic response is in the rare form of anaphylactic shock, prompt emergency treatment is necessary with the administration of adrenaline by means of an injection. This condition is fatal unless emergency treatment is promptly received.

Persons most commonly affected: Both sexes and all age groups.


Symptoms and indications: The main symptoms are breathlessness and a wheezing cough that may be worse at night. The extent to which the bronchi are narrowed varies considerably and governs the severity of the attack. In a severe attack, the breathing rate increases considerably and is rapid and shallow. The pulse rate also increases. In a very severe attack, the person may be so breathless as to make speech impossible and may show signs of cyanosis (a bluish colour of the skin because of a lack of oxygen in the blood). A severe asthma attack or one that does not respond to the usual controlling medication taken by the patient is an emergency condition and medical help should be sought immediately. Prolonged and repeated attacks of asthma, with no break in between, are called "status asthmaticus". This also is a serious emergency that can cause death due to exhaustion and respiratory failure.

Treatment: The day to day treatment of asthma is one of management to avoid the occurrence of an attack. This includes avoidance of the particular substance or allergen that triggers the asthma, if this is known and if it is possible to do so. Drugs used in the treatment of asthma are of two kinds. Bronchodilators are used to dilate the airways, and these include beta-adrenergic agonists such as salbutamol and anticholinergics such as theophyllines. The second group are anti-inflammatory drugs, which are inhaled corticosteroids and sodium cromoglycate. Most of the drugs used in the management of asthma are inhaled.

Persons most commonly affected: All age groups except newborn babies, often beginning in early childhood. In childhood, more boys than girls suffer from asthma, but in adult life both sexes are affected equally.


Symptoms and indications: Wheezy breathing and shortness of breath, which is even worse after exercise. In severe cases, the patient may become blue, bloated and "barrel-chested".

Treatment: Oxygen may help and antispasmodics may be of use during attacks of breathlessness.

Persons most commonly affected: Older people of both sexes.

Hay Fever

Symptoms and indications: Symptoms include a blocked and runny nose, sneezing, watering eyes that are itchy and red and may swell. The person may sometimes wheeze and have slight breathing difficulties. A person with severe symptoms of hay fever should seek medical advice.

Treatment: Is by means of antihistamine drugs and if the allergen (the substance causing the symptoms) can be identified, desensitization may be successful. This involves injecting or exposing the individual to controlled and gradually increasing doses of the allergen until antibodies are built up.

Persons most commonly affected: All age groups and both sexes.

Other problems that could cause Symptoms of Breathlessness, wheezing and breathing difficulties could be connected to: Asbestosis and others.




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