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Asthma Health Center

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What Are the Symptoms of Asthma?

People with asthma experience symptoms when the airways tighten, become inflamed, or fill with mucus. Common symptoms of asthma include:

  • Coughing, especially at night
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness, pain, or pressure

Not every person with asthma has the same symptoms in the same way. You may not have all of these symptoms, or you may have different symptoms at different times. Your symptoms may also vary from one asthma attack to the next, being mild during one asthma attack and severe during another.

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Tracking Asthma Symptoms: Key to Control

Asthma symptoms are like the weather -- they change often and may seem unpredictable. But also like the weather, careful tracking of asthma symptoms can help identify patterns and what they may say about your asthma control. Research has shown that tracking and rating your asthma symptoms are key steps in successfully managing asthma. One study even found that it helps keep kids with childhood asthma out of the emergency room. Most asthma action plans track your “peak flow” (measured by a portable,...

Read the Tracking Asthma Symptoms: Key to Control article > >

Some people with asthma may go for extended periods without having any symptoms but experience periodic worsening of their symptoms in the form of asthma attacks; others have some symptoms every day. In addition, some people with asthma may only have symptoms during exercise or when they are exposed to allergy-causing substances or viral infections like colds. Some people might have multiple triggers for their asthma attacks.

Mild asthma attacks are generally more common. Usually, the airways open up within a few minutes to a few hours after using a rescue medication and addressing the trigger. Severe attacks are less common but last longer and often require immediate medical help. It is important to recognize and treat even mild symptoms to help you prevent severe episodes, keep asthma under better control, and prevent a mild attack from developing into a severe one.

Are There Early Signs of an Asthma Attack?

Early warning signs are changes that happen just before or at the very beginning of an asthma attack. These changes start before the well-known symptoms of asthma and are the earliest signs that your asthma is worsening.

In general, these signs are not severe enough to stop you from going about your daily activities. But by recognizing these signs, you can stop an asthma attack or prevent one from getting worse. Early warning signs include:

If you have early warning signs or symptoms, you should take asthma medication as described in your asthma action plan. Remember, mild attacks can quickly progress to a severe attack.

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

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