Air Hunger (Dyspnea): Symptoms, Causes, Treatments and Prevention

Air hunger

Air hunger is the difficulty in breathing or not being able to breathe sufficiently. The technical term for air hunger is dyspnea.

This shortness of breath is often related to heart and lung diseases. It can also occur after an intense workout or vigorous activity.

According to the Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education, twenty-five percent of people who visit doctor suffer from air hunger. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the causes and the treatments available for dyspnea.

Symptoms of Air Hunger

The most common symptom of dyspnea is the shortness of breath. It is the difficulty in breathing and a sensation of tightness in your chest.

If you suffer from air hunger, you will always feel that there is a lack of air in your lungs. It can last for a minute after intense activity, or it can be a chronic problem.

It is natural to have dyspnea after vigorous activity. In case if you face the same without any explanation, then you should seek treatment.

You should also go for therapy if you suffer air hunger sooner than you used to after an activity. If you face shortness of breath after any action which was normal for you, then it calls for medical attention.

Causes of Air Hunger

Commonly, air hunger occurs after exercise, running, or vigorous activity. It can also occur at high altitude or due to changes in temperature. This type of air hunger lasts for a short period.

Sometimes, exercise can also be an air hunger cure if it is the result of being out of shape. However, there may be instances where dyspnea arises due to health diseases. Most common of them include heart and lung diseases.

There may be times when shortness of breath occurs suddenly. It might be a result of some acute problem. You should treat this type of air hunger urgently. They include:

  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Anxiety
  • Cardiac tamponade (excess fluid around the heart)
  • Allergic reactions
  • Anemia
  • Serious loss of blood
  • Exposure to high level of carbon monoxide
  • Heart failure
  • Hypotension, which is low blood pressure
  • Pulmonary embolism, (blood clot in an artery in the lung)
  • Upper airway obstruction (blockage in the breathing passage)
  • Collapsed lung
  • A hiatal hernia

If you face short breath for more than a week and it is continuous, then it can be Chronic dyspnea. Chronic dyspnea can occur due to

  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Deconditioning
  • Heart dysfunction
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Obesity
  • Poor Physical condition

Dyspnea can also be a result of lung diseases.
Examples are:

  • Croup (generally occurs in young children)
  • Earlier lung damage or scarring
  • Lung cancer
  • Tuberculosis
  • Pleurisy, an infection in the tissues surrounding the lungs (membrane inflammation)
  • Pulmonary edema, when the quantity of fluid in the lungs is very high
  • Pulmonary hypertension, when the blood pressure in the lungs is high
  • Sarcoidosis, when inflammatory cells in the lungs increases

Several heart problems also cause the shortness of breath. Some of them are:

  • Cardiomyopathy, it affects the heart muscle
  • Heart rhythm problems (Heart arrhythmias)
  • Heart failure
  • Inflammation of tissue around the heart (Pericarditis)

Mostly, heart diseases and lung diseases cause hunger in adults. Croup is an exception. Pollutants, chemicals, fumes, dust, and smoke are known as triggers for the people suffering from dyspnea.

It is necessary to take immediate actions in case of emergencies which might be sudden dyspnea attack. Keep reading to know more about air hunger.

Air Hunger Anxiety Link

Anxiety occurs when you are anxious or fearful of something. You may feel lack of air when you suffer from anxiety. It is air hunger anxiety.

When you face danger, anxiety helps you to take actions. It helps you activate your fight and flight system. It results in quick breathing.

It can be an advantage for you as it enables you to prepare for dangers. Under the menacing situation, the body needs more resources than usual.

The presence of anxiety is a sign that more energy and oxygen is released, thus helping you face the same.

There is also a condition known as hyperventilation. It happens when you sit back and breathe quickly. Some health conditions like asthma are scary, and they can lead to anxiety and dyspnea together.

Walking and distracting your mind can help you overcome anxiety.

Treatment for Air Hunger (Dyspnea)

To treat dyspnea, firstly, it is necessary to understand the causes for the same. If dyspnea is the result of asthma, It will require medications like steroids.

You can treat dyspnea due to infections with antibiotics. Some medicines like opiates, anti-inflammatory drugs, and anti-anxiety drugs also help in curing the same.

If you want to know, how to get rid of air hunger if medications are not working, you can go for home remedies for the same.

Let us look at some of the air hunger treatment.

1. Pursed Lip Breathing Technique

It is a technique to calm the rate of your breathing. This technique helps you to slow down your breathing and bring it to a normal level.

To perform this, bring your shoulder and neck to rest and breathe in through your nose for two counts. Keep your mouth closed while breathing in.

Purse your lips, that brings your lips to the position when you are about to whistle. To the count of four, slowly breathe out through your mouth.

2. Sit Forward

Sit down on a chair keeping your neck, and shoulder muscle relaxed. Keep your feet flat on the ground and your elbows on your knees.

Rest your chin on your palms by bending forward slightly. If you have a table, you can rest your hands on the table instead. Use the pillow to rest your head.

3. Supporting Back and Standing

Stand straight resting your hips on the wall. Your feet should be shoulder with apart. Rest your hands on your thighs.

Slightly lean forward dangling your arms in front of you. Keep your shoulder muscles relaxed while performing the activity.

4. Standing with Supported Arms

Stand near a table or similar furniture with a flat surface. The height of the furniture should be just below your shoulder.

Keep your hands or elbows on the furniture keeping your neck relaxed. Relax your head on your forearms. Then, relax your shoulders.

5. Sleeping in a Relaxed Position

Many people face air hunger at night. This technique can help them. Lie down straight with your head raised by a pillow and bent knees with a pillow under your legs.

You can even lie on your side keeping a pillow between your legs and also your head elevated by a pillow.
Along with the above, changing your diet, drinking coffee, using a fan can also help in air hunger treatment.

Related Reading: Heavy Breathing: Common Causes and Natural Treatments


You can avoid air hunger by avoiding the causes behind them. Changing your lifestyle can help you prevent shortness of breath. There are several ways to prevent dyspnea. Let us look at some of them:

  • Quitting smoking and avoiding tobacco can help you avert air hunger. Several products and therapies can help you to quit smoking.
  • If you work in an environment which has poor air quality, wear a mask. Make sure that your place is adequately ventilated.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Take suggestions from doctors or nutritionist for your diet and exercise.
  • Chemical fumes, pollutants, allergens, and wood smoke can harm you. Try to avoid them.
  • Do not perform a vigorous activity at high altitudes. Also, travel to high altitude with a slow speed.
  • Getting enough sleep, eating healthy and losing your weight if you are overweight or obese can also help you to prevent air hunger.
  • If you suffer from Bronchitis, COPD or asthma, take proper medications for the same.

Along with the above points, your daily lifestyle can fluctuate the chances of air hunger. Talk with the nutritionists and doctor to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Also, if you require any treatment, do not delay it if possible.


So we see that dyspnea depends on your daily Lifestyle, habits, and environment. Make sure to see a doctor in severe cases immediately.

Pregnant ladies, infants and old people are more prone to air hunger, and therefore, particular attention should be given if symptoms persist on them. Also, it is always better to consult a doctor before using any remedy at home.

Roland, J., “Dyspnea,” Healthline website, last accessed March 31st, 2018,
Dresden, D., “What is Dyspnea?”, Medical News Today Website, last accessed March 31st, 2018,
“How Anxiety Causes Lack of Air/Breathlessness,” Calm clinic Website, last accessed March 31st, 2018,
Cirino, E., “9 Home Treatments for Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea),” Healthline website, last accessed March 31st, 2018,

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