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Feels like not getting enough air



My 14 year old son complains every now and then that he feels like he is not getting enough air. He has to take deep breaths very minute or so to fill his lunges when he feels like this. He can tell when it starts to go away. It happens may be once a month. It lasts for about 20-30 minutes. His feet are usually cold. But he is healthy otherwise. Is this anything serious? Thanks


It is not normal for a otherwise healthy 14 year-old to feel this way and you should definitely discuss this with your doctor. There are many possible causes of shortness of breath, but based on what you describe this could be asthma. The only way to know for sure is to discuss this with your doctor. She is going to ask you a number of questions, some to think about include: Does it happen when he is exerting himself or when he is at rest? Does it happen at night? Is there anything else that causes him to feel this way: strong smells, cold/hot weather, exercise, animals? Does he have allergies or acid reflux (heartburn)? Does he have eczema (or did he as a baby)? Did he have a lot of infections as a child? Is there a family history of asthma?

Depending on these answers the doctor may perform a breathing test called spirometry to look for signs of asthma. The good news is that if this is asthma there are treatments that can really benefit him. Often asthmatic individuals once they recognize their disease, realize that their breathing was limiting their ability to participate in activities and with treatment we improve their ability to tolerate sports and reduce their susceptibility to common infections.

Please let us know if you have any further questions.

For more information:

Go to the Asthma health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Matthew  Exline, MD Matthew Exline, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University