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Asthma Symptoms

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Know the Symptoms of an Asthma Attack continued...

The severity of an asthma attack can escalate rapidly, so it's important to treat these asthma symptoms immediately once you recognize them.

Without immediate treatment, such as with your asthma inhaler or bronchodilator, your breathing will become more labored. If you use a peak flow meter at this time, the reading will probably be less than 50%. Many asthma action plans suggestion interventions starting at 80% of normal.

As your lungs continue to tighten, you will be unable to use the peak flow meter at all. Gradually, your lungs will tighten so there is not enough air movement to produce wheezing. You need to be transported to a hospital immediately. Unfortunately, some people interpret the disappearance of wheezing as a sign of improvement and fail to get prompt emergency care.

If you do not receive adequate asthma treatment, you may eventually be unable to speak and will develop a bluish coloring around your lips. This color change, known as cyanosis, means you have less and less oxygen in your blood. Without aggressive treatment for this asthma emergency, you will lose consciousness and eventually die.

If you are experiencing an asthma attack, follow the "Red Zone" or emergency instructions in your asthma action plan immediately. These symptoms occur in life-threatening asthma attacks. You need medical attention right away.

For more detail, see WebMD’s article Asthma Attack Symptoms.

Know the Asthma Symptoms in Children

Asthma affects as many as 10% to 12% of children in the United States and is the leading cause of chronic illness in children. For unknown reasons, the incidence of asthma in children is steadily increasing. While asthma symptoms can begin at any age, most children have their first asthma symptoms by age 5.

Not all children with asthma wheeze. Chronic coughing with asthma may be the only obvious sign, and a child’s asthma may go unrecognized if the cough is attributed to recurrent bronchitis.

For more detail, see WebMD’s Asthma in Children

Know About Unusual Asthma Symptoms

Not everyone with asthma has the usual symptoms of cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Sometimes individuals have unusual asthma symptoms that may not appear to be related to asthma. Some "unusual" asthma symptoms may include the following:

  • rapid breathing
  • sighing
  • fatigue
  • inability to exercise properly (called exercise-induced asthma)
  • difficulty sleeping or nighttime asthma
  • anxiety
  • difficulty concentrating
  • chronic cough without wheezing

Also, asthma symptoms can be mimicked by other conditions such as bronchitis, vocal cord dysfunction, and even heart failure.

It's important to understand your body. Talk with your asthma doctor and others with asthma. Be aware that asthma may not always have the same symptoms in every person.

For more detail, see WebMD’s article Unusual Asthma Symptoms.

WebMD Medical Reference

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