Dyspnoea is a subjective symptom relating to breathing discomfort or shortness of breath. There may be a psychosocial component to dyspnoea.

For the specific management of someone with anxiety associated with dyspnoea, refer to anxiety.

For support with switching between oral and subcutaneous opioids, refer to Opioids: Switching Between Formulations.

Prescribing Guidance

The CareSearchgp App provides prescribing information on this issue

The palliMEDS app provides GPs with advice on managing this symptom with palliative care medicines endorsed by the Australian & New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM). The app is a collaboration between NPS MedicineWise and caring@home.

Tasmanian Adult Palliative Care Formulary

Useful information

palliAGED Practice Tip Sheets

Therapeutic Guidelines: Palliative Care (subscription required)


  • Dyspnoea is a common symptom in a dying person without always having a specific cause.
  • Potentially treatable causes of dyspnoea include cardiac failure, chest infection, pleural effusions or ascites: active treatment of these maybe clinically appropriate.
  • Consider trialling a fan, which has been shown to help some people with dyspnoea.
  • Oxygen has no role in the management of dyspnoea in the terminal phase as the symptom is usually related to metabolic changes. Oxygen tubing can be irritating, and the oxygen flow can dry the nasal mucosa.

Page last updated 12 March 2024