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Symptoms of Asthma

Asthma symptoms may differ somewhat in adults and children. In addition, severity and duration of symptoms vary from mild to severe.

Common asthma symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty during feeding in infants
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Limited exercise tolerance or avoiding exercise or sports

Warning Signs of an Impending Asthma Attack

There are warning signs that signal an impending asthma attack. By learning to recognize these early symptoms as warning signs, you can help prevent attacks or reduce their severity.

In Adults:

  • Increased shortness of breath and wheezing
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Sweating
  • An increased need to use bronchodilators

In Children:

  • A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
  • Frequent coughing or cough spasms
  • Waking up coughing in the night
  • Shortness of breath while stationery or exercising
  • Feelings of tightness in the chest
  • Restless sleep patterns
  • Trouble feeding

What Happens During an Asthma Attack?

Exposure to asthma triggers can cause airways to contract and become inflamed, narrowed, and clogged with mucus. Less room is available for air to flow in and out of the lungs. The duration of the asthma attack varies. Attacks range from mild to severe and last anywhere from a few minutes to several days. During attacks, bronchial muscles go into spasm, causing air to be trapped in tiny air breathing sacs in the lungs, called alveoli. Asthma attacks may be fatal if not identified and treated.

Airway Narrowed Due to Mucus Plugs

Breast self-exam, step 1
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References:

Asthma exacerbation in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated January 13, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017.
Asthma exacerbation in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated January 5, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017.
Asthma in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated February 22, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017.
Asthma in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T500326/Asthma-in-children. Updated April 6, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017.
Asthma symptoms. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 8, 2017.
Asthma symptoms, causes & risk factors. American Lung Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 8, 2017.
What are the symptoms of asthma? Asthma and Allergy Foundatoin of America website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 2015. Accessed September 8, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 9/17/2014

 

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