Rapid, shallow breathing: General information you should know

On average, a person breathes between 12 and 16 times per minute. Shallow breathing occurs when you breathe more than normal. When you breathe quickly, this process is sometimes called hyperventilation. Hyperventilation may occur due to lung infection, or hearth diseases. However, having a proper medical diagnosis will determine the cause. Therefore, if you feel rapidness in breathing, it should be reported to your doctor for emergency treatment, especially the first time it occurs. Call the emergency care if you have any of the following symptoms –

  • Bluish or grayish cast to the skin and nails
  • Bluish or grayish cast to the lips and gums
  • Fainting, chest pain, fever,
  • Rapid breathing that worsens,
  • Sinking of the chest with each breath.

Reasons for shallow breathing

If you want to know how to stop shallow breathing, you should first know the reasons. Infections that affect the lungs can cause shortness of breath, which can lead to shorter and faster breathing. If these infections get worse, the lungs can fill with fluid and make deep breathing difficult. In rare cases, infections can lead to death if left untreated. In case of choking, the airways become partially or completely blocked. In these cases, immediate medical attention is needed. 

Pulmonary embolism is a condition caused by the presence of a clot in the lung. This can lead to hyperventilation, chest pain, cough, and tachycardia or arrhythmia. Hyperventilation is a symptom of an asthma attack. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs that often causes rapid, shallow breathing in children. COPD is a common lung disease that is usually caused by chronic bronchitis or emphysema. Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways, while emphysema is caused by the destruction of the air sacs in the lungs. Try to lose excess fat. Excess fat stored in the abdomen makes breathing difficult.

Tests to determine the causes

Your doctor may treat you right away to correct the breathing pattern and make deep breathing easier. They may ask you questions about your symptoms or condition. Treatment may include the administration of oxygen-rich air through a mask. After the medical emergency is treated, the doctor will ask you questions such as the following –

  • When did the breathing problems start?
  • Do you take any medications?
  • Have you been diagnosed with any medical conditions before?
  • Do you have a breathing problem such as asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema?
  • Did you recently have a cold or flu?

Your doctor may want to look at your lungs in more detail to check for damage, signs of disease, or infection. X-rays are usually done, but in some cases an ultrasound may be necessary. The use of other diagnostic imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan is rare, but may be necessary.


Shallow breathing caused by an infection can be treated with an inhaler that opens the airways, and with antibiotics to clear the infection. Chronic conditions like asthma and COPD cannot be cured. However, rapid and shallow breathing can be reduced if treatment is followed. If you have shallow breathing as a symptom of an anxiety attack, a combination of therapy and anxiolytic will likely be recommended.

If you continue to have rapid breathing and the treatments mentioned above do not work, your doctor will prescribe a beta cell blocker to correct your breathing. Preventive measures depend on the cause of the problem. If the cause of your breathing problem is asthma, you can prevent attacks by avoiding allergens, vigorous physical activity, and irritants like smoke and pollution.You may also be able to prevent hyperventilation before it becomes an emergency.Seeking immediate treatment is necessary.

Categorized as Health

By Antonio Carter

Emily Carter: Emily, a trained environmental journalist, brings a wealth of expertise to her blog posts on environmental news and climate change. Her engaging style and fact-checked reporting make her a respected voice in environmental journalism.