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Asthma Health Center

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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

Asthma in Children: Symptoms and Risk Factors

Asthma is the leading cause of chronic illness in children. It affects more than one of every 10 children in the U.S., and, for unknown reasons, it is steadily increasing. It can begin at any age, but most children have their first symptoms by age 5.

Read the Asthma in Children: Symptoms and Risk Factors 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.


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, medication 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 an epinephrine injection kit for emergencies (usually two pens). Always carry it with you and do not hesitate to use it to inject yourself, even if you are unsure that your symptoms are allergy related.

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

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