Can COVID-19 Only Be Shortness of Breath? Causes & Treatment

Medically Reviewed on 2/23/2022
Can COVID-19 Only Be Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath may be a symptom of COVID-19, but on its own it is unlikely to be a sign of infection

Shortness of breath may be a symptom of COVID-19, but on its own it is unlikely to be a sign of infection. 

COVID-19 can cause shortness of breath as a result of lung infection and damage. Other causes of shortness of breath include:

If shortness of breath is accompanied by symptoms such as severe chest pain, nausea, swelling, inflammation, or fever, seek immediate medical assistance.

How is shortness of breath evaluated?

Causes of shortness of breath are diagnosed based on your symptoms and medical history.

Your doctor will conduct a thorough clinical examination coupled with tests such as chest X-ray, pulmonary function tests, CT scans, and MRI scans of the chest structures. 

If COVID-19 is suspected, the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test is recommended.

How is the shortness of breath managed?

Shortness of breath is managed based on the underlying cause of the symptoms. Primary management is oxygen supplementation along with proper positioning.

  • COVID-19: Management depends on the person’s oxygen saturation and the presence of comorbidities such as diabetes or hypertension. It may require oxygen supplementation, as well as antiviral medications (remdesivir) if needed. 
  • Infections: Causes need to be treated with appropriate antibiotics after blood culture tests confirm the causative agent and drug sensitivity. Viral bronchitis often heals on its own with supportive measures. 
  • Tuberculosis (TB): TB should be treated with an appropriate anti-TB drug regimen.
  • Other causes: Depending on the cause, treatment may include bronchodilators, nebulization, management of embolisms, diuretics, physiotherapy, surgery, or medications such as:
    • L-acetylcysteine
    • Beta-agonists (albuterol
    • Steroids

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Medically Reviewed on 2/23/2022
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19.