Asthma UK community forum
10,103 members16,756 posts

Shortness of breath, ER visit

So I went to the ER 2 days ago because of severe escalating shortness of breath, in the end it got so bad I got all tingly all over, feeling of tension in my chest, hands and feet got so tingly and numb I lost all feeling in them and had trouble calling 911 for the ambulance to pick me up. The worst passed in the ambulance already, the paramedics gave me strange looks when oxygen saturation came up 99% but drove me to the hospital. However I felt no significant constriction of airways throughout the ordeal like I usually do - i felt like I could breathe deeply if I wanted. No wheezing, no cough, just feeling like I was imploding.

They did an X-ray, listened to my lungs, doctor said no way it's asthma (I have asthma since I was a kid, currently on symbicort).I felt like an ass, I really thought I'm dying in that bus when I called them. They had me nebulize a 1000mcg (I think it was mcg) of Pulmicort and also Berodual. Afterwards I still felt short of breath and went to sleep with my chest tight. Inhalers of any kind never help when this happens

I get this thing daily since november though not so severe, last spirometry in october showed FEV about 82% predicted for my height and age (27)

Anyone get things like this? I know how asthma feels and that feeling of ""airways-closed tightness in the chest"", as a kid I knew right off that my lungs are closing up but this doesn't feel like that

3 Replies

To me that sounds awfully like a panic attack. Breathlessness, is a common symptom, and that tingly feeling can be because you are breathing more rapidly than you need to, it gets rid of a lot of co2 and that can cause all sorts of strange sensations. I think it can actually be a bit self-perpetuating, as once you've got low levels of co2, it can make you feel quite unwell and that can cause you to continue to breathe rapidly! (thats why people used to breathe into paper bags - to get co2 back!) Low levels of co2 can also cause feelings of anxiety which might explain partially the feeling of dying! It would also add up with high o2 sats. If it didnt feel like your asthma - it might well have been something different - especially if inchalers etc dont help! To add to the complications asthmatics have a known tendency to over-breathe (some people believe this is a xcause of asthma in some people, and hence claim 'cures' in methods like Butyeko which i know very little about - so don't quote me on that exactly)

You did exactly the right thing by going to hospital. Breathlessness can be caused by lots and lots of different things, and you need to rule them out! As it turned out, clearly the doctors felt it was nothing sinister, but notice they didnt just look at you and say 'clearly you're fine, go away', they listened to your chest, they did an xray, they measured the level of oxygen in your blood. You have no way of doing any of those tests at home, and so the only sensible thing for you to do was to go to A&E, and clearly, whatever the cause, you were not well enough to get there yourself. you did the right thing.

In terms of long term plans, clearly this is an issue that needs resolving if it is happenening daily. It depends on the cause though. do you think the anxiety caused the breathlessness, or the breathlessness caused the anxiety. if the anxiety came first it might be best managed by talking to your GP and seeing about councelling, CBT, medication etc which can manage the anxiety and that in turn may help the breathlessness. If the breathlessness came first then it might make sense to a)check your asthma control, as lack of control might cause discomfort and make you feel more like panting. and b) getting resp physio, this can help give you excersises which can help you to breathe more slowly, and better, an awful lot of asthmatics have this and a few people i know have a significant improvement after this. your GP or Cons should be able to refer you.

Hope you feel better soon!


Thanks for the reply soph, I too suspect this might be anxiety since it would happen throughout my life starting as early as 14. It would only last a couple days then, though, not months like now. What is strange is that it never happened in the last three years and I had a super stressful job throughout that time, even smoked daily because I haven't had serious symptoms for years now and they were ALWAYS wheezing and noticeable airflow obstruction when they happened.

Mainly I post to ask people if it is possible to have an an asthma attack without a clear feeling of airflow obstruction, just this subtle awareness of your breathing and that weird feeling in the chest. I'm really scared of my asthma progressing since admittedly I haven't really taken care of my health in my early twenties all too well. Can't wait to see the pulmonologist next tuesday.


I'm with Soph on this - from what my team say, low co2, which comes from a panic attack does some really odd stuff! And would explain the sensations you were feeling!

I can't say that during an asthma attack I've noticed not having airway obstruction. There's always obstruction there. But I'm not the ""normal"" asthmatic, others might have different experiences!

I really hope your pulmo has some ideas :-) please try and not smoke :/ won't help your lungs at all


You may also like...