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Don't ignore getting out of breath

Teresa talks about a new campaign encouraging people to take feeling breathless seriously.

Public Health England

Last month, Public Health England (PHE) launched a campaign to get people in the East of England talking about breathlessness. The campaign features a TV advert reminding people to visit their doctor if they get out of breath doing everyday activities. Roadshows are also being held across the region highlighting how important it is to get this symptom – which could be a sign of a lung condition - checked out.

Don’t let breathlessness fool you

Everyone feels breathless at some point - but getting out of breath doing everyday tasks, such as mowing the lawn or climbing the stairs, could be due to a more serious health problem. A PHE survey showed that a third of people in the East of England couldn't name a health condition associated with being out of breath.

That’s alarmingly high, especially when you think about the estimated 2.2 million people in the UK living with undiagnosed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Getting out of breath is one of the main symptoms of conditions like COPD, which can affect many aspects of day-to-day life. The main message of the campaign is that you shouldn't consider being out of breath just a normal part of ageing or put it down to being unfit. If you feel breathless you should see your GP as soon as possible.

People don’t want to bother their GP

The survey also revealed that nearly 6 in 10 adults in the East of England would put off going to their GP if they suffered from breathlessness. Almost 1 in 4 said they were worried they’d be wasting the doctor’s time and almost a quarter didn't think being out of breath is serious enough to seek advice from a doctor. Getting to a GP early and getting that crucial diagnosis could really make the difference in getting better treatment options and a better quality of life. So while it could well be nothing serious, it's important to seek advice as soon as possible.

What we’re doing

Being able to share stories about personal experiences can make a difference to any campaign. Some members of our Breathe Easy support groups have played a key role by sharing their own experiences of being out of breath with their local press, and encouraging people not to ignore their symptoms. Some of our medical advisers have also been busy talking to the press (listen from 1h05m) about what exactly breathlessness means and how seeing a doctor about being out of breath isn't a waste of time at all!

Evaluating the impact

To make sure the campaign is as effective as possible, health care professionals will be sharing which parts have worked well, and which parts could be improved to make even more impact. Hopefully we'll be seeing campaigns like this rolled out across the rest of England and the UK, encouraging more people to go to their GP about their breathlessness, and more people getting the treatment and support for a better quality of life.

If you're experiencing breathlessness, book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. You can also call our helpline on 03000 030 555, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, and read our breathlessness information online.


Hi David, I'm sorry to hear you're struggling with your breathlessness right now. It sounds like you might not be getting the treatment you need for your COPD - I would recommend using our COPD patient passport to see if there are any issues you can bring up with your doctor next time you visit. You can find the COPD patient passport here: <a href="" title="COPD passport" rel="nofollow"></a> You might also want to chat to our friendly Helpline nurses who can offer you some more advice and support on how to manage your condition. You can give them a call on 03000 030 555, Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. All the best David, Suzanne British Lung Foundation
After being diagnosed with C.O.P.D.around 5 years ago,I started exercising.Tai Chi is excellent for people with lung conditions as you exercise every muscle in your body but in a gentle manner.Great for balance too.I also do an hours health walk once a week.All in I do 4 hours of classes a week.I have felt a big difference .
Im confused by it all. my doctor knows and has told me I have C O P D and I get breathless often . I have a inhaler. but I find I am getting worse. I am 83 and cant do much work in or outside my home I just want to give up.who do I turn too David
i won't exersize as my stats go down to much,or my heart rate goes up so I will be more careful than normal as I've not been tested for this yet,also I am so out of breath I have not the stamina As muscles are effected so be careful with exersize,I will do tai chi when I'm ready to have a balance .

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3 March 2015