Long-term effects of COVID-19 (long COVID)


After an illness you may find you have difficulty catching your breath and feel short of breath more easily. This is called breathlessness. This can happen if you’ve had coronavirus (COVID-19), even if you did not need treatment in hospital.

Speak to your GP practice if:

  • you’re worried about breathlessness

They will assess your symptoms and investigate the reasons for you feeling short of breath.

Breathlessness can feel scary and some people feel anxious as a result of being short of breath. Often breathlessness can be helped with breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. Managing breathlessness is possible.

How to ease breathlessness

Using a different position will allow your breathing muscles to work better and help you to feel less short of breath. You might find one position works best for you.

For example, lying on your front can help reduce breathlessness if you’re recovering from coronavirus. Adding pillows under your chest or pelvis may make this position more comfortable. Only use this position if you feel comfortable and it helps your breathing.

Feelings of panic will often make your breathlessness worse. So, trying to relax in your preferred position will also help.

The NHS Lanarkshire website has examples and images of positions which can help reduce breathlessness.

Breathing techniques to reduce breathlessness

Breathing control

  1. Sit in a relaxed position in a chair with your back well supported.
  2. Place one hand on your tummy.
  3. Slowly take a deep breath in through your nose.
  4. As you breathe in, allow your tummy to rise up.
  5. As you breathe out slowly, feel your tummy relax down.

This may take some practice but can be very useful to help reduce breathlessness.

Pursed lip breathing

This can be useful to control breathlessness when you’re walking or being more active.

Take a breath in through your nose. Gently breathe out through your mouth with your lips pursed, just like when you’re whistling or blowing out a candle. Try to breathe out for longer than you breathe in.

Blow as you go

Breathe in before you start to move, then breathe out when you’re making a big effort, such as bending down, lifting something heavy or going up stairs.

Breathing and relaxation

Breathing exercises can help relieve stress and relax your body and mind.

Read more information about breathing and relaxation

Last updated:
23 November 2022

There are no NHS operators available to chat at this time

Health and wellbeing services