Going out and breathlessness
There are things you can do to help with breathlessness when you are going out.
If you’re planning a day out somewhere unfamiliar, it may be helpful to get information in advance on things such as whether there’s a lift, parking and transport facilities and how far you’ll have to walk to your destination.
The air in some places may be drier, for example if it’s a cold, dry day, or if there’s air conditioning. This can cause a dry mouth and coughing. Taking a small bottle of water with you can be useful. You should also keep a handheld fan with you to help if you experience an episode of breathlessness.
When walking outdoors, take it slowly and use controlled breathing. Try to bring the rhythm of your breathing in line with your walking. You can do this by breathing in on one step then out on the next two steps.
Aids such as a walking stick, a wheeled frame or a wheelchair can be useful when you’re outdoors, particularly for longer trips. Your nurse, physiotherapist or occupational therapist can arrange these for you. You can also hire wheelchairs from the British Red Cross. Your local shopping centre or supermarket may also have wheelchairs you can borrow while you’re there.
The Shopmobility, Motability and Blue Badge schemes may be able to help you get out and about if you have reduced mobility. Ask your nurse, occupational therapist or social worker for details.
Physical activity won’t necessarily make you breathless, especially if you take it slowly and use controlled breathing as much as possible. At the same time, remember that getting breathless is not harmful.
By gradually increasing the activity you do, you’ll become fitter and your muscles will get stronger. Over time, you’ll be more confident in your ability to control your breathing, and to know when and how to do this.
Physical activity can help to improve your breathing and make you feel better. Even people with severe breathing problems can benefit from small amounts of physical activity.
Trying some physical activity
Start slowly by doing movements with your arms and legs while you’re sitting down. Then set yourself goals that are right for you, whether that’s walking about from room to room, going to the front door, to the garden, or going out for a short walk. You can gradually build up what you do.
Remember to take it slowly, use controlled breathing and match your breathing rhythm to your steps. You may find that you’re able to do a bit more each time. This will help you manage your everyday activities more comfortably. A physiotherapist can give you advice on the right type of physical activity for you. A pedometer or step counter can help you to gradually increase the amount of walking you do each week.
It can be helpful to keep a note of when your breathlessness has been difficult, activities that made it worse and what techniques you used to deal with it. You may find there are certain times of the day when more energy is needed, such as in the morning when you're getting dressed. Or you may find there are certain things that make your breathlessness worse, such as feeling stressed.
You can also use a diary to plan activities for times of the day when you feel better, and to remind you to practise controlled breathing and relaxation techniques.