The Symptoms

The symptoms of asthma vary greatly from person to person and from attack to attack for the same person. Your ability to recognize the early signs & symptoms that lead to an asthma attack is crucial in avoiding emergency room visits. When you notice these signs, you should start following your Asthma Action Plan.
Before a full-blown asthma attack, there are usually early signs and symptoms you can recognise. Irritation of the nose and throat, thirst, and the increased need to urinate are common symptoms that may occur before an asthma attack. Each person has his or her own particular pattern of early symptoms, which gradually progress to a severe difficulty in breathing if not properly treated. The checklist of symptoms contains a list of the early signs of asthma symptoms.

The classic symptoms of an actual attack are coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Wheezing when breathing out is very common during an attack. Often the attack begins with wheezing and rapid breathing and, as it becomes more severe, all breathing muscles become visibly active.

Some people first experience chest tightness or pain. Chest pain occurs in about 75% of asthmatics; it can be very severe and its intensity is unrelated to the severity of the attack itself. The neck muscles may tense and talking may become difficult or impossible. The end of an attack is often marked by a cough that produces a thick, stringy mucus. After an initial acute attack, inflammation persists for days to weeks, often without symptoms. (The inflammation itself must still be treated, however, because it may causes relapse.)

The most common symptoms are:

Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
If you experience breathlessness after laughing or talking this could mean asthma. You may also find that you feel the need to breathe in before you have finished breathing out.

This is the whistling sound sometimes heard when you breathe. It indicates airway narrowing. Please note that not all asthmatics wheeze and not all wheezing indicates asthma.

Exercise makes you breathless
If physical exertion (playing sport, walking up a flight of stairs etc.) makes you more breathless that it could be an indication of asthma.

Tight chested feeling
This sensation feels like a tight band across your chest – like an elastic band or a heavy weight resting on your chest.

Excessive mucus production
Gurgling or rattling and coughing up a lot of white frothy mucus is common. Sometimes it will be thick and yellow or green.

A recurring, irritating cough is frequently a sign of asthma. This persistent cough usually occurs in the cool air, at night or after exercise.

Chest pain
When air is trapped in the airways due to inflammation, the surrounding membrane stretches, and causes pain.

Nasal Problems
Nasal congestion and/or running nose is often an accompanying feature of asthma. Rhinitis is often called asthma of the nose.

Disturbed Sleep Patterns
Problems such as snoring or waking up numerous times during the night is a very common asthma symptom.

Feeling very tired is quite usual for asthmatics. It is often the result of broken sleep, diminished oxygen supply to the body and also the build up of lactic acid which tires the muscles.