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exhausted lungs

Breathing is Exhausting!

Breathing is a passive movement. It is an action that our brain triggers our body to do without us consciously thinking about it. Until it becomes difficult and we are hyper-aware of every breath. This is something that only people who have ever had any breathing difficulties can understand.

A flare-up can use every ounce of energy

When our asthma is acting up, whether it be a slow building flare-up over a couple of weeks or an immediate reaction to a trigger, it can take every ounce of energy we have to just breathe. We use much more than our lungs to breathe. There are many muscles including the intercostal muscles between the ribs and the diaphragm which is a pretty large one! When breathing is difficult the shoulder and upper back muscles are also used to assist in pulling in and blowing out air from our lungs. In the medical field, we refer to this as retractions when you can physically see the pulling in movement.

Having to use all of these accessory muscles to breathe will use more calories and make you even more tired. You know the feeling after you work out or are doing a task that makes your muscles ache for days afterward? The same thing happens after a bad asthma attack. It is like running a marathon without ever putting your feet on the ground.

Relief from post-asthma exacerbation exhaustion

It is not uncommon to feel completely wiped out and exhausted from just breathing. There are a few things you can do to help with the post-asthma exacerbation exhaustion:


When I say rest I mean REST. Relax, and do as little activity as you can. Allow your body to catch back up and regain strength. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.  Whether it be going to the store for you or helping with daily household tasks for a while.

Stay hydrated

Keeping on top of your fluids will help your muscles and lungs heal faster. Often times, when asthma flares up our electrolytes can get all out of whack and fluids can help fix that issue. Stay away from caffeinated and overly sugary drinks. Stick to water and other hydrating fluids.

Pay attention

After an asthma flare-up, it is not uncommon for you to rebound into another flare. Take extra care to listen to your body for any signs or symptoms. Stay on top of your meds and be in communication with your medical team.

Give yourself time to rest

With asthma, sometimes breathing is completely and utterly exhausting! It is so important to take time to allow your body to rest, heal, and recover so you will be back to breathing easy!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Great article, Theresa. Great job of explaining post asthma attack fatigue and what to do about it. This is something that too many of us experience, and it’s so important to rest up for a few days — ad that also means calling in sick for work. John. Site Moderator.

  • robbym
    3 months ago

    This is so true. It’s validating to read an article like this. My experience has been that if I’m not blue and in obvious distress it’s not asthma and there is no excuse for being lazy. So many people judge solely by what they see, so it can be hard to get support for the invisible aspects of asthma. I’ve had asthma my whole life and am still figuring out new things about my asthma. This site has been a good source of information.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    robbym Yes, I agree. I was impressed when I had an asthma attack a few months ago my Dr. suggested I take a few days off work to recuperate. And then when I did go back to work my coworkers made it so I had an easy day. So, the word is definitely getting out that we need time to regain strength. Hope all is going well with you. John. Site Moderator.

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    robbym – Well said! I’m sorry that’s been your experience, but sadly, not an uncommon one for people with asthma. I hope you’ve found support among some close friends and/or family.
    It’s great to hear that you’ve found the site helpful in learning more about asthma and hopefully in dealing with it as well.
    Take care – Lyn (site moderator)

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