Skip to content

Asthma Health Center

Font Size

Asthma in Teens and Adults - Symptoms

Symptoms of asthma can be mild or severe. You may have no symptoms, severe symptoms every day, or something in between. How often you have symptoms can also change. Symptoms of asthma may include:

  • Wheezing, which is a whistling noise of varying loudness that occurs when the airways of the lungs narrow.
  • Coughing. This is the only symptom for some people.
  • Chest tightness.
  • Shortness of breath, which is rapid, shallow breathing, or difficulty breathing.
  • Sleep disturbance because of coughing or having a hard time breathing.
  • Tiring quickly during exercise.

An asthma attack occurs when your symptoms suddenly increase. Factors that can lead to an asthma attack or make it worse include:

  • Having a cold or another type of respiratory illness, especially one caused by a virus, such as influenza.
  • Exercising (exercise-induced asthma), especially if the air is cold and dry.
  • Exposure to triggers, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, dust mites, or animal dander.
  • Being around chemicals or other substances at work (occupational asthma).
  • Changes in hormones, such as during the start of a woman's menstrual blood flow or pregnancy.
  • Taking medicines, such as aspirin (aspirin-induced asthma) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Nighttime asthma

Many people have symptoms that become worse at night (nocturnal asthma), such as a cough and shortness of breath.

In general, waking at night because of shortness of breath or a cough is a sign of poorly controlled asthma.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 09, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    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
    Slideshow
    woman wearing cpap mask
    Article
     
    red wine pouring into glass
    Slideshow
    Woman holding inhaler
    Quiz
     
    Man outdoors coughing
    Article
    Lung and bronchial tube graphic
    Article
     
    10 Worst Asthma Cities
    Slideshow
    runner
    Article
     

    WebMD Special Sections