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Out of Breath and Dizzy

Q: I'm 38 years old and in fairly good shape, but recently I've been having major trouble catching my breath. It gets so bad that I have dizzy spells, and the only way I can really fill my lungs is by yawning repeatedly until the spinning stops. I go through this several times a day! I thought maybe I was hyperventilating and tried breathing into a paper bag, but it only made things worse. What could be wrong?

Dr. Donnica: Despite your age and excellent physical shape, it's time for you to have a complete physical with an emphasis on your heart exam. Yawning itself is a normal response to fatigue or drowsiness, but excessive yawning, especially as you described it as trying to get a deep breath, may be caused by a vasovagal reaction and can indicate an underlying heart problem.

Until your check-up, I recommend backing off on the exercise and keeping a log of how often you experience these symptoms, what medications you may be taking (including cough/cold medications and herbal preparations), what makes it better or worse, what you were doing at the time you experienced the symptoms, and whether they interfere with any activities.

Created: 12/4/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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