“Dyspnea” is the medical term used for shortness of breath. People describe it as being short of breath, having difficulty breathing, having a tight chest, or not getting enough air. It can range from mild to severe. It can be present all the time or caused by activity.

Some people who have had COVID-19 end up with shortness of breath that may be caused by greater immune system activity and permanent damage to the lungs. Your doctor might ask to have your lungs checked (i.e., pulmonary function test). This test will help give the health team a better understanding of the reason that shortness of breath is occurring. For more information please visit the Pulmonary Functioning Test

Lung problems can cause low oxygen levels in your blood as well. This can also lead to shortness of breath, and you might need to be given oxygen through a tube. To learn more about this, go to the Oxygen page.

Not all shortness of breath is caused by issues in the lungs. It could be caused by issues in the heart or the blood, which may require further testing. Shortness of breath can also be caused by a lack of activity for a long period of time (“deconditioning”). This can happen when people are in the hospital or sick for a long time. During this time, a person’s muscles get weak and their heart and lungs aren’t able to work as well as they normally do. This causes the body to want more oxygen.

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