Asthma is a long-term condition that affects the airways and can cause breathing difficulties. It is common and can affect people of all ages, although it usually starts in childhood, but you can develop it in adulthood too.
In order to effectively manage asthma, it’s important to know exactly what the signs or symptoms are.
The severity of your asthma will affect how often you experience these symptoms. Some people with asthma get them every now and then, while others experience them regularly.
Our doctors can discuss any breathing difficulties you're having. They'll listen to you breathing during your consultation and identify any symptoms that could indicate asthma.
Symptoms can vary widely from person to person, and sometimes they may be mild, whilst at other times, they can be very severe.
The symptoms of asthma include:
- wheezing when breathing, listen for a whistling noise when you breathe out
- a tight chest, which can feel crushing, achy or you may have stabbing pains
- breathlessness, which may make breathing feel like a struggle
- a cough, which may be worse first thing in the morning, or last thing at night
These are all symptoms of bronchial asthma, which is the more common form of the condition and affects the tubes that carry air to your lungs.
In rare cases, some of these symptoms could indicate cardiac asthma, which is much more serious and combines wheezing with heart failure.
It’s really important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. They’ll discuss your symptoms and can refer you for further tests if needed.
Symptoms in children
The symptoms of asthma in children are largely the same as they are in adults. What’s often different is the cause and times of day when they occur.
There are signs you can look out for if you’re worried that your child might have asthma. For example, your child may cough a lot when they’re playing, laughing or crying.
The main asthma symptom for young children is a cough. You may also notice some wheezing, but this isn’t uncommon in very young children as their airways are smaller.
If you’re at all concerned about your child’s health, our doctors can provide all the help and reassurance you need.
Asthma attack symptoms
Sometimes you may experience an asthma attack - the symptoms may come on suddenly, or develop over a few days. Look out for:
- Severe and constant chest tightness that feels like it’s getting worse
- Wheezing and coughing that feels like it’s getting worse
- Breathlessness that’s stopping you doing everyday activities
- Very fast breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Drowsiness, dizziness or confusion
- Blue lips or fingernails
- Pale skin
- Panic or anxiety
If your symptoms don’t improve despite using your asthma medication, this could also be a sign that it is an asthma attack.
The symptoms of asthma are similar to the symptoms of many other conditions. For example, chest tightness and shortness of breath can also be caused by allergies, while coughing can be caused by something like a chest infection.
It can be difficult to tell exactly what’s wrong without speaking to a doctor. However, there are a few clues you can look out for, such as:
- Symptoms that occur regularly
- Symptoms that only occur in response to certain triggers
- Symptoms that get worse at certain times of day, such as early in the morning or late at night
If any of these apply to you, it’s worth seeing a doctor to confirm your asthma diagnosis. This will allow you to start treatment and ensure your symptoms don’t get in the way of your life.
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Updated: September 6, 2019