symptoms appear when your airways are inflamed and constricted.
can vary greatly. They can be barely noticeable or severe and life-threatening.
Many people with asthma don’t
even know they have it.
vary depending on the individual and their age. One attack can also be
different than another attack in the same person. You can go a long time
without symptoms and have only periodic asthma attacks. Or you can have asthma
symptoms on a daily basis, only at night, or only after exercise.
experiencing what you think might be asthma symptoms, see your doctor for
asthma screening and tests.
Common Asthma Symptoms
persistent cough is a common asthma symptom. The cough may be dry or wet
(containing mucus), and it might worsen at night or after exercise. A chronic
dry cough with no other asthma symptoms may be a sign that you have
is a whistling sound that usually occurs when you exhale. It results from air
being forced through narrow, constricted air passages. Wheezing is a
recognizable asthma symptom, but wheezing alone doesn’t mean you have asthma. It’s
also a symptom of other health problems, including chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia.
might find it difficult to breathe as your airways become inflamed and
constricted. Mucus can fill these narrowed passages, worsening the airway constriction.
Difficulty breathing can lead to feelings of anxiety, which can then make
breathing even more difficult.
the muscles surrounding your airways constrict, your chest may tighten. This
can feel like someone is tightening a rope around your upper torso. Chest
tightness can make it difficult to breathe and lead to feelings of anxiety.
Less Common Asthma Symptoms
asthma symptoms are less common. They can be triggered by the common asthma
symptoms previously mentioned, or they can exist independently of those
an asthma attack, you aren’t
getting enough oxygen into your lungs. This means less oxygen is getting into
your blood and to your muscles. Without oxygen, fatigue sets in. If your asthma
symptoms worsen at night (nocturnal asthma) and you have trouble sleeping, you’ll likely feel fatigued during the day
flaring is the enlargement of the nostrils during breathing. It’s often a sign of breathing difficulty. This asthma symptom
is most common in younger children and infants.
is a natural physiological response that involves the lungs expanding to full
capacity. Sighing is essentially a deep breath and a long exhale. Because
asthma can constrict air flow into your body, you might sigh to get excessive
air into or out of your body.
can trigger an asthma attack. It can also be a symptom of an asthma attack. As
your airways start to narrow, your chest tightens and breathing becomes
difficult. These symptoms can generate anxiety. The unpredictability of an
asthma attack can also create anxiety. Being in a stressful situation can
trigger asthma symptoms in some people.
Exercise and Asthma
Exercise can have
various effects on your asthma.
If you exercise
outdoors, many environmental factors can constrict your airways. Also, if you
enjoy endurance sports such as swimming, you face more risks of
exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB).
exercise can also lessen your asthma symptoms by improving the health of your
heart and decreasing the severity of your airway constriction.
Asthma in Infants
Infants are especially susceptible to asthma symptoms
because of their smaller airways. Children under the age of five commonly
experience respiratory infections, which can cause them to get asthma symptoms
more quickly than in adults. Symptoms unique to infants include difficulty
sucking or eating, a change in their crying sounds, and cyanosis, which is
characterized by a pale blue coloring in the face, lips, or fingernails. In serious
cases, infants may stop responding to or even recognizing their parents.
Asthma in Children
Young children show
many of the same asthma symptoms as infants. Children may also frequently
cough, wheeze, and experience chest colds. However, these symptoms may not
always indicate asthma. If symptoms persist or are worsened by smoke or
allergens like pet dander, a child probably has asthma.
According to a 2014
study, children don’t always report their symptoms when they
feel chest tightness, but parents react when they hear their child wheezing.
Children should keep an asthma symptoms journal to improve communication
between parents and children with asthma. Writing down details of their
symptoms can help children recognize their asthma and quickly report symptoms
to their parents.
Emergency Symptoms of Asthma
symptoms can disrupt your daily life and keep you from enjoying an active
lifestyle. Luckily, most symptoms are more of an annoyance than a threat to
if an asthma attack is severe, it can be a life-threatening emergency. An adult
or child with an asthma attack should go to the emergency room if quick-relief
medication fails to work after 10 to 15 minutes or if any of the following
- discolored (blue or gray) lips, face, or nails, which
is a sign of cyanosis
- extreme difficulty breathing, in which the neck and
chest may be “sucked in” with each breath
talking or walking
anxiety caused by breathing difficulty
of 100°F or higher
Asthma symptoms can be frightening, but proper treatment and
lifestyle choices can help you control your asthma. Being aware of your
symptoms and their patterns allows you to plan your response to each symptom
and attack. This knowledge can make you confident in the face of your symptoms.