Skip to content

Asthma Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Asthma & Allergies: the Warning Signs of Asthma

Some asthma symptoms may develop days before breathing tests show a significant decrease in lung function. Yet in some situations, the symptoms develop suddenly. The most common symptoms of asthma or an attack include:

What should you do if you have any of these asthma warning signs? Ideally, you and your doctor should have already worked out an asthma action plan. This is a simple set of steps to follow when you have asthma symptoms. Your asthma action plan may include measuring your breathing capacity with a device called a spirometer and taking a dose of quick relief inhaler medication. Your doctor may also want you to change the dose of your daily maintenance therapy to help control your asthma.

Recommended Related to Asthma

Lung Function Tests for Asthma

To diagnose asthma, your doctor will review your asthma symptoms, your medical and family history, and may perform lung function tests (also called pulmonary function tests). Your doctor will be interested in any breathing problems you might have had, as well as a family history of asthma or other lung conditions, allergies, or a skin disease called eczema. It is important that you describe your symptoms of asthma in detail (coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness), including when...

Read the Lung Function Tests for Asthma article > >

Warning Signs of an Asthma Emergency

Some warning signs of asthma are more serious. They include:

  • Symptoms that keep getting worse, even with treatment
  • Difficulty catching your breath or talking
  • Flaring your nostrils as you breathe
  • Sucking in your chest or stomach with each breath
  • Difficulty walking
  • A bluish or grayish tinge to your lips or fingernails

If you have any of these asthma symptoms, get emergency medical help right away.

Anaphylaxis

Some people who have asthma also have allergies. For example, hay fever is a risk factor for developing asthma. Some triggers can make asthma worse and in some cases a serious type of allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can occur. Anaphylaxis can be caused by food allergies, latex allergies, or allergies to insect stings. Most allergic reactions are localized to one area of your body. An allergic reaction in your skin leads to hives. An allergic reaction in your nose leads to congestion.

But in anaphylaxis, many different organs of your body are affected at once. The results are rapid and life-threatening. Signs of anaphylaxis are:

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Keep in mind that anaphylaxis often develops quickly after exposure to the allergen -- possibly within minutes. If you know you’re at risk for anaphylaxis, your doctor should have prescribed a medicine for emergencies. Always carry the medicine with you.

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

Start Now

Today on WebMD

Lung and bronchial tube graphic
5 common triggers.
group jogging in park
Should you avoid fitness activities?
 
asthma inhaler
Learn about your options.
man feeling faint
What’s the difference?
 
Madison Wisconsin Capitol
Slideshow
woman wearing cpap mask
Article
 
red wine pouring into glass
Slideshow
Woman holding inhaler
Quiz
 

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Man outdoors coughing
Article
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
Article
 
10 Worst Asthma Cities
Slideshow
runner
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections