Understanding Asthma -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Asthma?

Asthma symptoms include episodes of:

  • Tightness or pressure in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound that usually occurs when exhaling)
  • Coughing, especially at night

Early warning signs of the onset of an asthma attack include:

  • Frequent cough, especially at night
  • Sudden or sustained increase use of your rescue inhaler
  • Feeling winded or short of breath with minimal activity
  • Breathing quickly or with a slow exhale through pursed lips. 
  • A decrease in lung function, as measured by a spirometer or peak flow meter


Call Your Doctor About Asthma If:

  • You or another person is experiencing an asthma attack for the first time; asthma can quickly become serious if not treated promptly and properly.
  • Your rescue inhaler (usually albuterol) does not work to relieve symptoms within 20 minutes
  • You or the person with asthma cannot talk in complete sentences. Other things to look for: flaring nostrils; fast breathing; the skin between the ribs is sucked in with each breath; the lips or the skin under the nails appear grayish or bluish. These are all signs of extreme oxygen deprivation. Get immediate emergency treatment.


WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on February 08, 2017



National Asthma Education and Prevention Program. Expert Panel Report: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma, 2002. 

National Institutes of Health publication number 02-5074, June, 2003. 

Brostoff J.; Gamlin L.; Asthma: The Complete Guide to Integrative Therapies. Healing Arts Press,1999. 

Plaut T.; Jones, T.; "Dr. Tom Plaut's Asthma Guide for People of All Ages." Pedipress, Inc.; 1999. 

The Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA).


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