Skip to content

Asthma Health Center

What Are the Symptoms of Asthma?

Font Size
A
A
A

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.

Recommended Related to Asthma

Asthma, Stress, and Anxiety: A Risky Cycle

You’ve been battered by a recent layoff, and high-stakes job interviews are taxing your nerves. As your financial worries mount, so do your attacks of shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. Is there a relationship between asthma and stress?   Yes, says Peter Gergen, MD, MPH, a senior medical officer at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Although stress won’t prompt a new case of asthma, it may worsen the disease in people who already have it, Gergen says. “During periods...

Read the Asthma, Stress, and Anxiety: A Risky Cycle article > >

Some people with asthma may go for extended periods without having any symptoms but experiencing periodic worsening of their symptoms called 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:

  • Frequent cough, especially at night
  • Losing your breath easily or shortness of breath
  • Feeling very tired or weak when exercising
  • Wheezing or coughing after exercise
  • Feeling tired, easily upset, grouchy, or moody
  • Decreases or changes in lung function as measured on a peak flow meter
  • Signs of a cold, or allergies (sneezing, runny nose, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, and headache)
  • Trouble sleeping

If you have early warning signs or symptoms, you should take asthma medication for flare-up or poor control 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?

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?
 
Los Angeles skyline in smog
Slideshow
man in a field with allergies
Slideshow
 
Woman holding inhaler
VIDEO
Slideshow Allergy Myths and Facts
Slideshow
 

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