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Changes in breathing


As your body shuts down you will become much less active and spend more and more time in bed.  Your body will require less and less oxygen and changes in your breathing pattern are likely to occur.

Even people who have been very breathless during their illness may find that breathlessness is less of a problem in the last days and hours of life.  This can be very comforting to know as many people fear that they will die gasping for breath.

Breathing often becomes slower and shallower breaths are taken.  Carers may notice that your breathing rhythm becomes irregular with sometimes long pauses between breaths followed by a loud gasp.


If you do become distressed by breathlessness morphine, commonly given for pain relief, can be given to relieve your distress even if you do not have pain.  Morphine will be one of the medications in your ‘just in case’ box if you are being cared for at home so it is readily available when you need it.

Noisy breathing – as you get weaker the muscles you use to breathe and cough get weak too.  This means that the lungs are unable to clear the mucus that they normally produce.  When the mucus in the chest builds up it can make your breathing noisy – it’s often described as a rattle.  This noisy breathing is a difficult symptom to manage and, although it is often not distressing to you, it can be distressing for carers to hear.

There is a type of medication that may help and changes of position can sometimes make a difference too.

End of Life Care
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