Asthma Symptoms

Most people with asthma experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Coughing. Coughing from asthma is often worse at night or early morning, making it hard to sleep. Sometimes coughing is your only symptom. Sometimes coughing brings up mucus, or phlegm.
  • Wheezing. Wheezing is a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe.
  • Chest tightness. This can feel like something is squeezing or sitting on your chest.
  • Shortness of breath. Some people say they can't catch their breath, or they feel breathless, or out of breath. You may feel like you can't get enough air out of your lungs.

But the symptoms of asthma are different for different people. They can vary from one time to another. They can also vary in frequency: Some people have symptoms only once every few months, others have symptoms every week, and still others have symptoms every day.

In a severe asthma attack, your airways can narrow so much that not enough oxygen can get into the blood that goes to your vital organs. This condition is a medical emergency. People can die from severe asthma attacks.

With effective asthma management, however, most people with asthma can expect to have few, if any, symptoms.

How Do You Know If You Have Asthma?

Now that you know more about the symptoms of asthma, you can see that it's easy to confuse them with symptoms of other conditions-for example, a cold or bronchitis. But asthma can be serious, so if you have a cough that won't go away or are often short of breath, or wheeze a lot, especially at night or after being active, it's a good idea to ask your doctor or other health care provider to check out what is causing your symptoms.

It will be helpful if you monitor your symptoms for several days before seeing your doctor. Write down what symptoms you had, what time of day or night they occurred, where you were at the time, and what you were doing. Take this log of your symptoms with you when you go to see your doctor.

Also take with you a list of ALL medicines you are taking for any other condition, and the doses, in case one of them might affect your asthma or interact with an asthma medicine.

The first thing your doctor will do is to ask you some questions. Be prepared to discuss the following:

  • Periods of coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or chest tightness that come on suddenly or occur often or seem to happen during certain times of year.
  • Colds that seem to "go to the chest" or take more than 10 days to get over.
  • Medicines you may have used to help your breathing.
  • Your family history of asthma and allergies.
  • What things seem to bring on your symptoms or make them worse.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 17, 2009

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