Duration Health — Field Guide: Breathing

Shortness of breath


In people with pre-existing medical problems like heart disease or asthma, shortness of breath or wheezing often means worsening of their disease, and you should seek medical care immediately and take medications as your doctor prescribed them. In people who are otherwise healthy, shortness of breath or wheezing is often a marker of a severe condition that may be a medical emergency, please seek help immediately.

When To Worry

Seek immediate medical care if you have the symptoms of shortness of breath or wheezing – these could indicate a medical emergency.

Quick Guide

If you have

  • mild wheezing and shortness of breath and known asthma


albuterol inhaler 2 puffs every 4 hours as needed for wheezing


predniSONE 40 mg once a day for 3 days



For children age 17 and under

Pediatric: prednisoLONE 1 mg/kg daily for 3 days, maximum 40 mg per day

See also: Pediatrics

If you have

  • If you have severe shortness of breath, shortness of breath at rest, or new wheezing with no history of asthma

Seek emergency medical care


Prednisone is a corticosteroid used to treat inflammation (not the same as an anabolic steroid, like testosterone). It is a versatile and common medication used in a wide variety of diseases. One common use of prednisone is to treat the inflammation in the airways that happens with an asthma attack. Prednisone can also be used to treat severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis if used with epinephrine. Prednisone is often used in conjunction with albuterol which takes minutes to start treating the symptoms of asthma, while prednisone takes hours to work. This medication should be taken with food.

Prescription only


Pulse oximeter is used to measure the level of oxygen in the blood and the heart rate. This powerful device can detect low oxygen in the blood and identify heart rates that are too fast or too slow. Put the pulse oximeter on your finger to check your heart rate and oxygen level. A heart rate above 100 in an adult at rest is generally abnormal. An oxygen level below 95% is generally abnormal. Seek emergency medical attention if you are experiencing an abnormal heart rate or oxygen level, particularly if you are also having fever, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, or other symptoms. We offer a standard fingertip pulse oximeter, with large red digital LCD display of blood-oxygen saturation (SpO2), pulse rate, and pulse bar. Color or style may differ from that shown in the photo based on available inventory.


Prednisolone is a corticosteroid used to treat inflammation (not the same as an anabolic steroid, like testosterone). PrednisoLONE, more commonly used by pediatric patients, is similar to, but should not be confused with, predniSONE, more commonly used by adults. One common use of prednisolone is to treat the inflammation in the airways that happens with an asthma attack. Prednisolone can also be used to treat severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis if used with epinephrine. Prednisolone is often used in conjunction with albuterol which takes minutes to start treating the symptoms of asthma, while prednisolone takes hours to work. This medication should be taken with food.

Prescription only


Albuterol (generic for Ventolin) treats shortness of breath caused by bronchospasm, a sudden tightening of the muscles in the walls of the breathing passages (bronchioles). Bronchospasm can be caused by asthma, exercise, chronic bronchitis, and anaphylaxis. Albuterol inhalers deliver this medication directly to the breathing passages. Common adverse effects of treatment with inhaled albuterol include palpitations, chest pain, rapid heart rate, tremor, and nervousness. Prime the albuterol inhaler before using it for the first time, when the inhaler has not been used for more than 2 weeks, or when the inhaler has been dropped. To prime the inhaler, release 4 sprays into the air away from the face, shaking well before each spray.

Prescription only



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How to approach Shortness of Breath Only your Duration Health provider can decide, based on your medical history and other factors, whether it is medically appropriate for you to receive prescriptions. We do not sell prefabricated bags of pharmaceuticals. Each Duration Health Med Kit that contains prescription medications is custom assembled, tailored to each individual patient's needs.

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