(HealthDay News) -- Tachypnea is the medical term for breathing that is abnormally rapid and shallow.

If you have the condition, the University of Maryland Medical Center says possible causes include:

  • A chronic respiratory illness, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • An infection of the lungs, such as pneumonia.
  • Chest pain.
  • A blood clot in the lung, sometimes called a pulmonary embolism.

Symptoms of rapid, shallow breathing should not be self-treated, and are "generally considered a medical emergency," the hospital warns.