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Shortness of Breath in Teens

author image Sara Ipatenco
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.
Shortness of Breath in Teens
Shortness of breath can limit your teen's activities. Photo Credit: lzf/iStock/Getty Images

If you've noticed that your teen has a hard time breathing or is huffing and puffing after very little activity, it can be quite scary. There are many things that could be causing your teen to be short of breath, but medical attention is essential because some causes can be quite serious, according to the website.

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The medical definition of shortness of breath is dyspnea, and it occurs when your teen isn't able to breath normally and feels like she can't get enough air. She might feel a tightness in her chest or feel like she's suffocating, according to In some cases, shortness of breath is temporary and goes away when the environmental or lifestyle factors causing the shortness of breath are eliminated. In other cases, shortness of breath is caused by an underlying medical condition that must be treated to reduce symptoms.

Common Causes

Extreme physical exertion can cause your teen to have a hard time breathing, but usually discontinuing the exercise will resolve the problem. Some teens experience shortness of breath if they visit areas that have a high elevation or that have very warm or very cold temperatures, according to Circulation, a journal by the American Heart Association. Having a cold that clogs your teen's sinuses can also make it more difficult to breathe, but the problem goes away as the virus clears up. Exposure to dust, cigarette smoke and environmental pollutants can also lead to temporary shortness of breath.

More Serious Health Problems

If your teen's shortness of breath occurs often, it could signal the presence of an underlying medical condition. Asthma is a common problem among children and can cause difficulty breathing. Anemia can also cause shortness of breath. It occurs when your teen doesn't get enough iron, and the disorder can also cause fatigue and pale skin. Chronic allergies to dust, pollen and mold can also negatively impact your teen's ability to breathe. If your teen is obese, he might also become short of breath. Anxiety disorders, panic attacks, heart problems and lung disorders can also lead to shortness of breath.


Don't ignore shortness of breath in your teenager. Unless she's exercising or vacationing in high altitude or extreme weather conditions, shortness of breath is concerning and you should seek medical attention immediately. Because shortness of breath is a symptom of many conditions, illnesses and diseases, it's crucial to determine what's causing your teen's breathlessness. Once her doctor figures out what's causing it, he can treat it effectively so your teen can breathe normally again.

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