Symptoms of Asthma

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Symptoms of Asthma

Asthma is a complex and diverse disease, affecting 9.3% of children and 8% of adults in the U.S. The primary characteristics of asthma are the narrowing of airways in the lungs and increased mucous production, making it difficult to breathe and leading to a number of adverse symptoms. Not every asthma sufferer gets every asthma symptom, and having these symptoms alone does not necessarily mean you have asthma. Additionally, many asthmatics may have no symptoms at all unless they are having an attack. Let’s break it down a little further.


This is the most common symptom of asthma, and for those with moderate to severe asthma, coughing may occur outside of an attack. Coughing tends to be worse when lying down to sleep at night or just after waking in the morning.


This is a specific type of cough that is productive, meaning fluids come from up from your air passages as a result of the cough.


Wheezing is the whistling or squeaky sound that occurs while breathing, and is a result of air passing through restricted airways.

Chest tightness

Characterized by the inability to move air in and out of your lungs, chest tightness is a common symptom of other ailments, but in asthma it may feel like someone is squeezing or even sitting on your chest.

Chest pain or pressure

During an attack, if you are coughing a lot and gasping for air, pain in your chest may develop alongside pressure as the tissues surrounding your lungs swell.

Shortness of breath

This is a feeling of not being able to catch your breath. Similar to chest tightness, it feels like you just can’t move air into your lungs.

Fatigue or tiredness

This is especially common for sufferers of nocturnal asthma, the type that usually flares up at night. For these asthmatics, coughing and hacking disrupt sleep. Even for those who sleep through their symptoms, what sleep they do get is of a lower quality. The fatigue some asthmatics experience may also be due to lowered amounts of oxygen reaching the brain and organs.

Difficulty talking

During an attack, asthma sufferers may have trouble speaking.

Chest retractions

During an attack, chest and neck muscles may tense up and tighten intermittently.

Feelings of anxiety or panic

During an asthma attack, the sensation of not being able to breathe can cause panic.

Pale, sweaty face

During an attack, oxygen loss and rapid, short breathing can cause perspiration and loss of color in the face.

Blue lips or fingernails

In severe attacks, lack of oxygen in the blood can cause the skin to look bluish.


More Asthma Resources:

Visit our asthma resources page here.

Man coughing image via Shutterstock.

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