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HealthInfo Canterbury

Breathing difficulties

Difficulty breathing is usually a medical emergency. Certain health conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), croup and infections such as pneumonia can cause breathing difficulties. Sometimes a severe allergy known as anaphylaxis can cause breathing difficulties.

Having difficulty breathing is very frightening and a person may become very anxious and agitated. Signs of breathing difficulties include:

Helping someone who is having difficulty breathing


If their medication doesn't seem to be working and they aren't getting better, phone 111 for an ambulance.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed November 2019.


Page reference: 284408

Review key: HIFAD-141030