Dyspnea is a subjective experience that includes difficulty breathing, an uncomfortable awareness of breathing, and shortness of breath. If your patient finds it difficult to speak or if answering questions exacerbates his problem, you may need to intervene first and ask questions later.
Assess and ask
Physical assessment includes auscultating the lungs, monitoring oxygen saturation, and assessing your patient’s skin for oxygenation clues. Because anxiety almost always accompanies dyspnea, ask about the presence of anxiety before, during, and after dyspneic episodes.
Treat and take precautions
Benzodiazepines, such as lorazepam (Ativan), are very effective in treating dyspnea. Dyspneic patients should be monitored frequently and should have a mechanism to call for help.