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Symptoms of Asthma

En Español (Spanish Version)

Main Page | Risk Factors | Diagnosis | Treatment | Screening | Reducing Your Risk | Talking to Your Doctor | Living With Asthma | Living With Asthma | Resource Guide

Asthma symptoms may differ somewhat in adults and children. In addition, severity and duration of symptoms vary from mild to severe.

Common asthma symptoms include:

  • Wheezing
  • Cough
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Complaints of chest pain or odd sensations
  • Difficulty during feeding in infants
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Limited exercise tolerance or avoiding exercise or sports

Warning Signs of an Impending Asthma Attack

There are warning signs that signal an impending asthma attack. By learning to recognize these early symptoms as warning signs, you can help prevent attacks or reduce their severity.

In Adults:

  • Increased shortness of breath and wheezing
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • An increased need to use bronchodilators

In Children:

  • A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
  • Frequent coughing or cough spasms
  • Waking up coughing in the night
  • Shortness of breath while stationery or exercising
  • Feelings of tightness in the chest
  • Restless sleep patterns
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety

What Happens During an Asthma Attack?

Exposure to asthma triggers can cause airways to contract and become inflamed, narrowed, and clogged with mucus. Less room is available for air to flow in and out of the lungs. The duration of the asthma attack varies. Attacks range from mild to severe and last anywhere from a few minutes to several days. During attacks, bronchial muscles go into spasm, causing air to be trapped in tiny air breathing sacs in the lungs, called alveoli. Asthma attacks may be fatal if not identified and treated.

Airway Narrowed Due to Mucus Plugs

Breast self-exam, step 1

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