Skip to content

    Asthma Health Center

    Select An Article

    Asthma Attack Symptoms and Warning Signs

    Font Size

    You may go for weeks or months without having a flare. But suddenly, your chest feels tight. You're coughing and wheezing a bit.

    During an attack, the muscles in your airway tighten. Their lining gets swollen. They make more and thicker mucus. All of this makes it hard to breathe.

    Recommended Related to Asthma

    Could Your Migraines Signal Uncontrolled Asthma?

    In the doctor’s office, it’s a familiar combination: a patient with both asthma and migraine. Each disease tends to run in families, but are the two conditions also linked? If so, once a person gains better control of asthma symptoms, might the excruciating headaches ease, too? Headache specialist Roger K. Cady, MD, believes so. “I would certainly say from my clinical practice that controlling either of those will help the other,” he says. Cady, founder of the Headache Care Center in Springfield,...

    Read the Could Your Migraines Signal Uncontrolled Asthma? article > >

    Early Warning Signs

    Just before or at the very start of an attack, you may notice changes that can tip you off.

    Follow the steps in your asthma action plan. You may be able to stop the episode or keep it from getting bad.

    During an Attack

    When symptoms flare, it might be hard for you to do normal, everyday things. You may have:

    • Short, shallow, fast breaths
    • A whistling sound when you breathe, especially out
    • A cough that won't go away
    • Squeezed feeling in your chest

    Use your rescue inhaler. Try to stay calm.

    When It Gets Worse

    Symptoms can become severe. You're not getting better if you also:

    • Feel panic
    • Wheeze when you breathe both in and out
    • Can't stop coughing
    • Have trouble talking or walking
    • Get tight neck and chest muscles
    • Have a pale, sweaty face

    Follow the "Red Zone" or emergency instructions in your asthma action plan. Call 911 or get to the hospital. You need medical attention right away.

    After an Asthma Attack

    You'll probably feel tired and worn out. For the next few days, you're more likely to have another flare, too. Pay attention for warning signs. Take care of yourself.

    • Follow your asthma action plan closely. Make sure you take your medications.
    • Use your peak flow meter.
    • Avoid your triggers.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on May 02, 2015
    Next Article:

    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
    woman wearing cpap mask
    red wine pouring into glass
    Woman holding inhaler
    Man outdoors coughing
    Lung and bronchial tube graphic
    10 Worst Asthma Cities