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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.

Recommended Related to Asthma

Adult-Onset Asthma

When asthma symptoms appear and are diagnosed in adults older than age , it is typically known as adult-onset asthma. About half of adults who have asthma also have allergies. Adult-onset asthma also may be the result of commonplace irritants in the workplace (called occupational asthma) or home environments, and the asthma symptoms come on suddenly.

Read the Adult-Onset Asthma 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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