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Obstructive lung disorders (OLD) make it hard to exhale all of the air that is in the lungs. This means that at the end of every breath, some air remains in the lungs. This reduces the amount of new air that is possible to breathe in with each breath. This trapping of excessive air is a common cause of shortness of breath in people with OLD.

Because OLDs come in different forms, such as asthma, COPD, or cystic fibrosis, the symptoms may vary from person to person, or depending on which type of OLD a person has. However, there are several symptoms of OLD that are quite common, regardless of type:

  • A persistent cough or a cough that produces a lot of mucus
  • Shortness of breath, particularly during physical activity
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest

Some of these more serious symptoms may require treatment in a hospital. You should seek emergency assistance if:

  • You are having a hard time catching your breath or talking
  • Your lips or fingernails turn blue or gray
  • You feel foggy or are not mentally alert
  • Your heartbeat is very fast
  • Treatment you have been prescribed for worsening symptoms is not working