HomeDiseasesAsthmaTop 7 Asthma Signs & Symptoms You Should Know

Top 7 Asthma Signs & Symptoms You Should Know


Asthma is a chronic, long-term pulmonary disease that causes the narrowing of the airways and obstructs breathing. This illness is predominantly characterised by the breathing complications experienced by Asthma patients. While both children and adults may be diagnosed of asthma, the illness is more prevalent among children. Patients may typically experience common Asthma symptoms like chest tightening, shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing.

Asthma symptoms can be mild or severe and can differ from one person to another. Most people diagnosed with this respiratory illness can lead a normal life, especially if their symptoms are mild. However, severe symptoms can interfere with one’s daily activities and may also be life-threatening. While it cannot be cured, there are several ways to manage asthma and asthma attack symptoms.

What Happens When You Have Asthma?

Asthma impacts the respiratory system that comprises the windpipe (trachea), lungs and blood vessels. The airways of the lungs, are called the bronchioles since they resemble tree branches. At the end of the bronchioles are the alveoli – this is where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place when you breathe. Under normal conditions, the lungs expand and contract without any resistance. However, when you have asthma, the bronchioles get narrow and inflamed, affecting their ability to supply air to the lungs efficiently.

The exact cause of inflamed airways remains unknown. Researchers have attributed this condition to genetics and environmental changes. The symptoms become apparent because of various triggers like air pollutants, dust, pet dander, fumes, etc. When you inhale such pollutants, the immune system produces antibodies that target the airways. When the body is fighting off foreign objects, the targeted area gets inflamed. Inflamed or swollen airways causes the narrowing of the bronchiole tubes. It further causes the airways to be filled with mucus. The muscles surrounding the bronchioles also tighten (bronchospasm). The narrowed or blocked tubes essentially restrict the air’s ability to inflate and deflate the lungs causing breathing complications.

Signs And Symptoms Of Asthma

Asthma is characterised by several unique symptoms.

  • Shortness of breath
    Asthma impacts the lungs. The most important function of the lungs is to regulate breathing. When you inhale, the lungs are filled with air and the alveoli aid in oxygen absorption. The alveoli exchange carbon dioxide which exits the body through exhalation, causing the lungs to contract. Since asthma makes pumping oxygen difficult, you may experience shortness of breath.
  • Coughing
    Coughing is your body’s response to things that irritate your throat or airways. For asthma patients, these are usually triggers like airborne irritants, smoke, dust, etc. The irritant stimulates nerve cells that signal your brain. The brain, in turn, signals your chest and abdomen muscles to force the irritant out of the body. With asthma, the airways are extremely sensitive to triggers, which cause coughing.
  • Wheezing
    Wheezing is a high-pitched, shrill and coarse whistling sound produced when you breathe. This is caused due to partially blocked airways – a characteristic of asthma. The wheezing tones vary based on which respiratory system part is narrowed or blocked. You can hear a harsher wheeze if the upper respiratory system is narrowed. On the other hand, the wheezing may be more musical if obstructions are in the lower parts of the system. Wheezing is common in children and infants as their airways tend to be narrower. Therefore, it is imperative to get toddlers checked for asthma.
  • Weakness After Exercising
    Muscle fatigue is normal after strenuous physical activity. However, a shaky feeling and extreme tiredness can be signs of asthma. This is because asthma causes shortness of breath due to inflamed airways. Subsequently, the lungs can’t deliver oxygenated blood to your brain and muscles effectively, which are extremely vital when you exercise. Proper breathing techniques, adequate rest between workouts, proper hydration and nutrition, etc., allow you to exercise even if you have asthma.
  • Allergies
    Asthma patients typically struggle with various allergies. When you have an allergy, the immune system works towards expelling the allergy-causing irritant out of the body. This causes reactions like sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, twitchy nose, etc. Persistent allergies are concerning and people experiencing them should be tested for Asthma. Dust, pollen, mould, pet dander are common asthma allergens, excess of which can also trigger an asthma attack.
  • Sleeping Difficulties
    Sleeping difficulties can be attributed to asthma. Difficulties inducing sleep, sleep fragmentations, early morning awakenings along with increased sleepiness during daytime are symptoms of nocturnal asthma. Nocturnal asthma is when the asthma symptoms worsen at night. The way you sleep can impact the airways. Laying flat on your back puts pressure on the lungs which may obstruct breathing even more, causing you to stay awake.
  • Tachypnoea
    Tachypnoea or fast breathing is when you take rapid but shallow breaths. Your body makes you breathe rapidly to compensate for the oxygen shortage caused by narrowed airways. Panic and anxiety due to shortness of breath can also cause tachypnoea, which can be treated only if the underlying cause is treated.

Symptoms of Asthma Attack

An asthma attack is an episode during which the muscles surrounding the bronchi tighten. This occurrence is also known as bronchospasm. You can identify an asthma attack with the following symptoms:

  • Severe wheezing
    Wheezing is a common symptom of asthma. With proper medication, you can control wheezing. However, even with medication and relieving techniques the wheezing may not go away. This could be a warning sign of an upcoming asthma attack.
  • Chronic cough
    While cough is considered a mild symptoms of asthma, an asthma attack could be underway if the cough becomes chronic. In such cases, normal cough relieving medications may fail to work. Affected patients can benefit from taking medications that help with the loosening of the tight bronchial muscles and widening the airways.
  • Retractions
    When you breathe, the diaphragm and intercostal muscles inside the chest tighten and relax. However, during asthma, the lack of air pressure can cause the skin and surrounding tissues to sink in leading to chest retractions. The neck muscles may also tighten.
  • Anxiety And Panic
    Anxiety and panic arise from the fear of being unable to breathe properly. The wheezing sounds and chronic cough can also trigger panic, especially when you are unequipped with proper management skills like administering preliminary first aid or having an inhaler on you at all times.
  • Blue Lips Or Fingernails
    The amount of oxygen the body receives determines the hue of red. When your body is unable to receive sufficient oxygen, it prioritises supplying oxygen to vital organs like the brain and heart as much as possible. During a severe asthma attack the blood vessels underneath the lips and fingernails receive low blood flow, and they appear to blue.
  • Paleness
    Pale skin indicates that your body is not receiving the adequate amount of oxygen it is supposed to receive. When oxygen is low, the body’s fight or flight response signals the blood to flow to vital organs like the heart and brain. Dysfunctional vital organs can be life-threatening. Therefore, your blood vessels under your skin receive less blood flow, making your body and face pale.

Asthma Symptoms In Children

In children, the lungs airways are still in the developing stages and therefore can get easily inflamed by triggers like pollen, cold or respiratory infection. Childhood asthma can interfere with the child’s daily activities like school, sports and sleep. Parents must pay attention to these symptoms, since they can prove dangerous as the child ages. Common asthma symptoms in children include:
• Lingering cough
• Wheezing
• Shortness of breath
• Chest congestion
• Trouble sleeping
• Delayed recovery from bronchitis
• Fatigue

Sometimes, differentiating between asthma symptoms and other respiratory infections can be challenging. However, seeking early medical care can help manage your child’s asthma condition.
Parents with asthma, cigarette smoke, airway infections, allergies, etc., are considered asthma-causing factors. You can prevent childhood asthma from worsening by helping your child maintain a healthy weight, encouraging them to stay active, not smoking around them, and cleaning bedsheets, curtains and carpets frequently.

Asthma Triggers

Asthma triggers are events or conditions that make your asthma flare up. The following are common asthma triggers:

Asthma triggers are events or conditions that make your asthma flare up. The following are common asthma triggers:
• Airborne irritants like pollen, mould, dust mites, etc.
• Pet fur
• Tobacco smoke
• Exercise
• Cold air
• Respiratory infections
• Smoke from motors
• Fumes from chemicals like disinfectants
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.
• Stress
• Strong emotions like fear, joy, sadness, anger, etc.
• Preservatives added to canned foods
• Strong smells from perfumes
• Candle smoke
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Note that the triggers can vary from person to person. Some triggers may cause mild symptoms while others can cause an asthma attack.

Symptoms of Asthma Faq

Are body aches and headaches asthma symptoms?

Yes, body aches and headaches could be asthma symptoms, but not in every case. Breathing difficulties, chest tightening, coughing, etc., can cause pain in the lower back. Change in sleep patterns and stress due to asthma can also cause headaches.

Are the asthma symptoms in adults different from that in children?

The signs and symptoms of asthma that adults experience are almost similar to those experienced by children. Both adults and children experience common symptoms like experience cough, wheezing and shortness of breath. However, adults may experience more severe and chronic symptoms than those experienced by children.

Is asthma contagious?

Asthma is usually caused due to hereditary and environmental factors. It is typically characterised by the inflammation of the airways. As such, it is not considered a contagious illness.

How is asthma treated?

Asthma treatment includes loosening the airways and relieving other symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe inhalers, which you must always keep on your person always. They may also recommend subcutaneous injections or anti-inflammatory drugs.


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About The Author

Dr.William Lewis Aliquam sit amet dignissim ligula, eget sodales orci. Etiam vehicula est ligula, laoreet porttitor diam congue eget. Cras vestibulum id nisl eu luctus. In malesuada tortor magna, vel tincidunt augue fringilla eget. Fusce ac lectus nec tellus malesuada pretium.

MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery) Gold Medalist (2009-2015) M.D In General Medicine (2016-2019), CCID (Infectious Diseases)

PG Diploma In Clinical Endocrinology v& Diabetes, Clinical Associate in Non-Invasive Cardiology

Dr.William Lewis Aliquam sit amet dignissim ligula, eget sodales orci. Etiam vehicula est ligula, laoreet porttitor diam congue eget. Cras vestibulum id nisl eu luctus. In malesuada tortor magna, vel tincidunt augue fringilla eget. Fusce ac lectus nec tellus malesuada pretium.

MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery) Gold Medalist (2009-2015) M.D In General Medicine (2016-2019), CCID (Infectious Diseases)

PG Diploma In Clinical Endocrinology v& Diabetes, Clinical Associate in Non-Invasive Cardiology

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