ZocdocAnswersWhy do I have shortness of breath during certain seasons?

Question

Why do I have shortness of breath during certain seasons?

I'm a 21 year old female who exercises regularly and is in shape, but has had trouble breathing. My breathing problems started at about the age of ten, and the doctors gave me an inhaler which did not help with my symptoms. I constantly feel the need to take deep breaths because when I breath normally, it does not feel as if I am getting enough oxygen. My symptoms seem to worsen depending on the season, but especially during the winter months.

Answer

This sounds like a very distressing problem. The most common cause of this type of problem is asthma and thus, I think that you should have this cause officially ruled in or ruled out. It is important to have this evaluation because your treatment depends on it. From my perspective, I cannot tell whether your breathing doesn't respond to the inhaler because you need a stronger medicine (if your asthma was severe), or if you don't have asthma at all The fact that your symptoms are worse in the winter makes asthma slightly less likely, but doesn't rule it out. Another problem that should be looked into is vocal cord dysfunction. This is a common issue in young women where the vocal cords move in the wrong direction when inhaling making breathing in very difficult. Vocal cord dysfunction is often misdiagnosed as asthma. The next best step is for you to take is to schedule an appointment with a pulmonologist. He or she can take a more detailed history of your symptoms and perform a thorough lung exam. Finally, the pulmonologist can perform pulmonary function testing with bronchodilatory challenge (gold standard for diagnosing asthma). With this approach, you can find out for sure what's wrong with your breathing.

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