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Caregivers Tips To Helping With SOB Attacks

From Caregiver Kitty
COPD-International Community Member

When a COPD patient has a coughing attack, panic attack or SOB attack (Short of Breath), they often have trouble getting their breathing back to normal. This can cause more panic which, in turn, can cause more sob... etc. etc. etc. - a very vicious circle!

There are a few things we can do as caregivers to help this situation. My husband has coughing, sob and panic on a fairly regular basis, about three times a week on average.

The following is what I do to help my husband when he gets into his "panic cycle."

    Talking softly - I reassure him... make sure 02 tube and nose cannula are in place, telling him what I am doing and checking, as I do it.

  • Help him sit up preferably a sturdy, straight back chair, knees apart, as comfortable as possible.

  • Have him lean forward slightly, hands resting on elbows on knees.

  • Gently, slowly rub back... from small of back to neckline... trying to give rhythm for steady, slow breathing.

  • Talk him through PLB (Pursed Lip Breathing)

One of the best things a person can do for shortness of breath is pursed lip breathing (PLB): Smell the roses (breathe in through nose) and blow out the candles (blow out through mouth).

(To learn more about pursed lip breathing go to Library/plb, where you can view graphics on this breathing technique.)
I continue talking softly, reassuringly... and sometimes we are back to normal breathing in a few minutes, sometimes it takes longer. And it gets better and easier each time.

It is scary to be with someone who is having trouble breathing... DO NOT PANIC!  One thought that a doctor shared that helped me is that if the person hyperventilates to the point of passing out, their breathing will return to normal... like the kid holding his breath - pass out and your body breathes for you!

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Last modified:
November 17, 2002